Mazza, James J., Dexter-Mazza, Elizabeth T., Miller, Alec L., Rathus, Jill H., and Murphy, Heather E. (2016) DBT® Skills in schools – Skills training for emotional problem solving for adolescents (DBT STEPS-A). (4th Ed). New York: The Guilford Press.

One of the first things that hits you when you browse this book is the detail and depth of the material presented. The dedication at the beginning paying tribute to lives lost through suicide is further testament to the passion and drive that led to the development of DBT® Skills in schools. It is the hope of the authors that the book and program will make a difference in the lives of all adolescents.

Each of the five authors have a professional background in mental health and, in particular, adolescent mental health. They note that most adolescents will face at least some emotionally challenging situations and stressors either at home, at school or with their peers. The aim of the DBT STEPS-A program is to provide a set of skills for managing emotions, help with building healthy relationships and assist with decision making during the adolescent years.

DBT® Skills in schools – Skills training for emotional problem solving for adolescents (DBT STEPS-A), is both a text and a practical program. The book is broken into three distinct areas. The first part explores the need for the program and provides research findings acknowledging the success of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy with both adults and adolescents. It also considers the development and implementation of the curriculum and challenges for both instructors and participants. Part one provides a strong background focus to the overall program. The second and third sections present the teaching material and student handouts.

The target group for the program is upper primary through to high school. The authors suggest that whilst there is some acknowledgement of the importance of developing skills in emotional management and decision making within this age group, there are not a lot of specific school based courses embedded into the curriculum. The program is tailored to be taught by educators, particularly those with a background or skills in adolescent mental health. The program covers four main skills areas – mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. The ultimate outcome is for students to learn the skills and apply them to situations outside the classroom.

Although this is an American developed program, it has universal features and is relevant to a variety of situations. The structured work plans are well-defined and easy to follow. The student handouts provide clear instruction. This is a well-rounded resource for application in a variety of settings.

Reviewed by Anda Davies

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