Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for Depressed Teen Boy - Kaiser or Clearwater

Hello, Has anyone had any experience with or knowledge of DBT programs at Kaiser Richmond and the Clearwater Clinic?

My 16 year old son has been depressed and even checked himself in the hospital when he had thoughts about taking his life. He's been working with a therapist since, and is also on medication.  Those things help, but he's still up and down a lot, and hasn't stayed up for longer than a few hours at a time.  His Kaiser psychiatrist recommended DBT program at Kaiser Richmond, which sounds good but is hard to get to from Oakland at 6 pm on Mondays (that's when it takes place, for about 6 months).  Most likely, my son would have to stop seeing his current therapist if he enrolls in the Kaiser DBT program.

I have also looked into a private DBT program that's not covered at all by our Kaiser insurance (I asked), called Clearwater.  Of course, it costs several times more than the Kaiser one in Richmond, but it's very close to where we live and they don't mind if my son continues seeing the same therapist he's been seeing, as long as that therapist supports DBT (he does).

Please share your thoughts on those programs! 

Parent Replies

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First of all, I'm so sorry to hear that your son is struggling like this--I can very much relate as we went through a similar situation three years ago with our then 15 year old daughter. While she still struggles at times with depression and may do so throughout her life, she has learned strategies for moving through it and being productive. She's now applying for college--something we couldn't have imagined three years ago. So hang in there: these waters you're navigating are really rough and frightening. Be sure to get lots of support for yourself: This will help you stay sane and in the best position to help your son.

Neither my daughter nor I have ever taken the Kaiser DBT classes, though a friend of mine thought the adult class was very, very good. Her teenage daughter did not like the teen course--she was a little appalled at the level of glorifying drugs and sex that occurred in the class. DBT classes are fairly "scripted"--so I'm not really sure how all that sharing occurred, and it may not always be that way. Hopefully, others with direct experience will respond to round out the picture. As a teacher myself, I can imagine that the tone in the class would vary depending upon who teaches it and who the clients are (just like any class taught anywhere). 

Although we were Kaiser patients, we decided to attend Clearwater's program--and we attended the class altogether. It was very well taught--and yes, it was expensive. We also signed up for parent coaching every two weeks because we needed to work on being more effective and united in our parenting. That added to the cost, of course, but in our case it was worth it. There were some family dynamics at play that contributed to my daughter's depression, and both my husband and I benefitted from taking DBT. If you want to keep costs down, it might be worthwhile to enroll your son in the Clearwater course and take it for free yourself at Kaiser. DBT is generally considered most valuable when the whole family understands the skills and concepts. As a parent, perhaps one of the most important skills to work on is "Validation"--and there are great resources for this on the internet. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to develop good validation skills when your loved one is depressed--especially when this person is a teenager.

I also want to add that DBT skills can be valuable for anyone--it's very practical and full of skills-based solutions and ideas. The content would help just about anyone understand what motivates people, why some people get angry or easily annoyed, and what to do when you're feeling depressed or angry. Plus these concepts are taught by someone other than yourself--and since many teens aren't listening to their parents as a source of wisdom--this can be enormously helpful. I'm a huge fan of DBT. And/but, because Kaiser has a DBT program, they tend to recommend it broadly. I'd want to know if your son's therapist agrees that DBT will help him in particular. Since your son has suicidal ideation, it's really important that the most effective course of treatment is offered to you.  At any rate, DBT is like Vitamin C--it can't hurt, and it could be really helpful. 

Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about DBT or other resources/support for you.

The Clearwater Clinic is excellent. They helped my severely depressed, suicidal, anxious daughter. She recovered and I attribute much of her recovery to the outstanding therapists at Clearwater.  In addition to weekly therapy, she and I took a 20-week class at Clearwater, which was very helpful. I had to learn how to best support her; DBT skills were not intuitive for me. This is the best money I ever spent.

There's a therapist in Emeryville that takes Kaiser insurance and uses DBT and CBT in his practice.  This therapist is also using EMDR very successfully with many clients.  His name is John Bieda, jr and can be reached at (415)254-8203 or BayAreaTherapyGroup.com.  He helped me with getting Kaiser to cover my sessions with an outside therapist.  He told me he mostly works with adults but works with teens as young as 14/15 years old on occasion.