DOI: 10.1002/capr.12737 ISSN: 1473-3145

A multifamily group for adolescents with emotion regulation difficulties: Adolescent, parent and clinician experiences

Ruth Cleary, Sharon Houghton, Claire O’Driscoll Lawrie, Clodagh Dowling, Kevin O'Hanrahan, Susan Devoy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology



Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) has been successfully adapted for use with adolescents experiencing difficulties associated with the maladaptive undercontrol of emotion. However, clinical observation and research findings suggest that adolescents may exhibit traits of both undercontrol and overcontrol—where over‐regulation of emotion predominates. In the adult population, distinct groups of individuals with under‐ and overcontrolled regulation styles can be identified, and treatments such as Group Radical Openness (GRO) have shown promise in treating difficulties associated with the latter. However, there are difficulties identifying distinct groups of under‐ and overcontrolled adolescents.


The present study therefore sought to qualitatively explore the experiences of participants (adolescents and parents) and facilitators of an intervention integrating DBT for adolescents’ skills training with GRO.


Six adolescents, seven parents and six clinicians completed semi‐structured interviews. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Nine themes and six subthemes were generated.


Findings suggested that an intervention of this type may have particular utility for adolescents with emotion regulation difficulties in the context of both overcontrol and undercontrol. Participants described improvements in symptoms and relational functioning, which they attributed to the development of a shared language for communicating about emotion and the multifamily group context within which the intervention was delivered. Findings also emphasised the utility of rolling groups.


Further research investigating the efficacy of this intervention is warranted. Strengths, limitations, future directions and implications for practice are discussed.

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