About our Adolescent Program

Adolescence is an increasingly lengthy developmental period during which young people are striving for independence but do not necessarily have the skills and the judgment to navigate the adult world sensibly, sometimes even safely.  Parents are therefore often trying to balance between providing sufficient limits and structure, and allowing their teen to make their own mistakes.  This task is especially stressful in families in which the teen has a vulnerable biology,  and has difficulty regulating their emotions, and/or does not tolerate distress without making things worse.  The DBT program at Clearwater is therefore both structured and flexible, negotiating initially to have the family enter into a program that works for everyone, but then maintaining the agreed-upon treatment framework with consistency.

The menu of DBT services for adolescents at Clearwater includes individual therapy for the adolescent, typically including phone coaching from 7am to 10pm daily.  We provide skills classes for adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 and for pre-adolescents between the ages of 10-12. We also offer individualized tutoring services to help teens learn and practice DBT skills when the classes do not appear feasible (because of school commitments, learning style, or other extenuating circumstances).  Typically, at least one of the teen’s parents/caregivers participate in the skills class with the teen, but again there are times when the teen attends alone, or a parent might even attend without their teen.  In addition, we offer parent coaching (one or more of the teen’s parents meets with a therapist on an on-going basis, frequency to be negotiated) and parent groups that are intended to teach the skills to parents at an adult level of abstraction.  It is very rare that we are willing to treat a teen without one or more of her/his parents committing to on-going services for themselves.

Typically, we require a six month commitment to DBT at the beginning of treatment as that is the time frame needed to teach the entire DBT curriculum.  Most adolescents and their families repeat the skills class twice, although there is a treatment review undertaken with both teens and parents after six months to determine whether the treatment is effective.  In DBT, services are not continued without some observable progress on treatment goals.

Sometimes teens are committed to a therapist they have been working with prior to seeking DBT, and would like to continue to work with that professional and only take a skills class.  We are flexible about this, and will typically work it out as long as the individual therapist is comfortable supporting DBT.

Clearwater also offers DBT informed therapy.  Phone coaching is not provided, and skills classes are not usually indicated for this type of treatment.  However, instruction in skills is integrated into the individual sessions, and some other components of DBT therapy (like diary cards, mindfulness training, and behavioral chaining) are generally utilized in the treatment.  This is often a desirable treatment approach for teens who are having problems tolerating distress without making things worse, and/or modulating their emotions, but are not engaging in dangerous or self-harming behaviors.

Skills Classes currently being offered for Adolescents and Families are:

For Adolescents (ages 13-18) and Families are:

  • Mondays from 6:00 to 8:00: with Hilary Ferris White, LCSW & Caitlin Burnham Next entry date is 3/2/2020.  Class size is limited to 20, and there is a fifteen minute break.
  • Tuesdays from 6:00 to 8:00 with Erika Swanson, Ph.D. & Caitlin Burnham Next entry date is 3/3/2020.  Class size is limited to 20, and there is a fifteen minute break.

**We are currently running a waitlist for both Monday and Tuesday night classes**

For Younger Adolescents (ages 11-13) and Families are:

  • Wednesdays from 6:00 to 8:00: with Hilary Ferris White, LCSW. Next entry date is 1/22/2020.  Class size is limited to 10, and there is a fifteen minute break.

Parent-only Skills Class

This DBT skills class follows the same 24-week curriculum as our standard teen/parent classes. It is intended for parents whose teens are not ready to take skills class, have clinical or logistical reasons to be in a different skills class than their teen, or whose teen is in treatment elsewhere (i.e., residential, hospital-based programs, or wilderness). Enrollment is open to new participants at 6-week intervals.

  • Mondays from 6:00 to 7:30: with Karen Erickson, LMFT. Next entry date is 3/3/2020.  Class size is limited to 10, and there is a fifteen minute break.

All classes cost $90/participant per week. For one participant it costs $540 to attend one 6-week module. Most participants complete all 24-weeks of class (i.e., four 6-week modules)  Payment is due at the time of enrollment. For clients seeing a therapist outside of Clearwater, we require a one-time intake appointment with the DBT class instructor. This intake costs $200 and covers materials for class. Clearwater does not accept Medi-cal or direct third party payments.  Visa and Mastercard are welcome.

Practical Information

Clearwater is located blocks from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. It has parking available, is on a major bus line, and is within walking distance of the MacArthur BART station. It is only about a 25 minute drive from Walnut Creek, Danville, and other Tri-Valley communities.

Updated 1/6/20