Feasibility of dialectical behavior therapy for suicidal adolescent inpatients

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;43(3):276-82. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200403000-00008.


Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) implementation in a general child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit and to provide preliminary effectiveness data on DBT versus treatment as usual (TAU).

Method: Sixty-two adolescents with suicide attempts or suicidal ideation were admitted to one of two psychiatric inpatient units. One unit used a DBT protocol and the other unit relied on TAU. Assessments of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, hopelessness, parasuicidal behavior, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and adherence to follow-up recommendations were conducted before and after treatment and at 1-year follow-up for both groups. In addition, behavioral incidents on the units were evaluated.

Results: DBT significantly reduced behavioral incidents during admission when compared with TAU. Both groups demonstrated highly significant reductions in parasuicidal behavior, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation at 1 year.

Conclusions: DBT can be effectively implemented in acute-care child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient units. The promising results from this pilot study suggest that further evaluation of DBT for adolescent inpatients appears warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Manitoba
  • Pilot Projects
  • Suicide Prevention*
  • Treatment Outcome