Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Applied to College Students: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Impact Factor: 4.85). 06/2012; 80(6). DOI: 10.1037/a0029096
Source: PubMed


College counseling centers (CCCs) are increasingly being called upon to treat highly distressed students with complex clinical presentations. This study compared the effectiveness of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for suicidal college students with an optimized control condition and analyzed baseline global functioning as a moderator.

The intent-to-treat (ITT) sample included 63 college students between the ages of 18 and 25 years who were suicidal at baseline, reported at least 1 lifetime nonsuicidal self-injurious (NSSI) act or suicide attempt, and met 3 or more borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnostic criteria. Participants were randomly assigned to DBT (n = 31) or an optimized treatment-as-usual (O-TAU) control condition (n = 32). Treatment was provided by trainees, supervised by experts in both treatments. Both treatments lasted 7-12 months and included both individual and group components. Assessments were conducted at pretreatment, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, and 18 months (follow-up).

Mixed effects analyses (ITT sample) revealed that DBT, compared with the control condition, showed significantly greater decreases in suicidality, depression, number of NSSI events (if participant had self-injured), BPD criteria, and psychotropic medication use and significantly greater improvements in social adjustment. Most of these treatment effects were observed at follow-up. No treatment differences were found for treatment dropout. Moderation analyses showed that DBT was particularly effective for suicidal students who were lower functioning at pretreatment.

DBT is an effective treatment for suicidal, multiproblem college students. Future research should examine the implementation of DBT in CCCs in a stepped care approach.

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Available from: Jacqueline Pistorello, May 08, 2014
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    08/2014; 218(1-2). DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2014.03.031
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