School-Based Opportunities for Adolescent Recovery (SOARing): The Acceptability and Feasibility of a DBT Skills Pilot Program for At-Risk Adolescents

Adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately at-risk for experiencing chronic stressors, often decreasing their ability to emotionally-regulate and negatively impacting their psychological well-being (Evans & Kim, 2013; Santiago et al., 2011). Effective prevention and early intervention programming that addresses emotion dysregulation is vital for improving mental health outcomes in these populations. School-based dialectical behavior therapy offers a promising avenue for bolstering socioemotional health in at-risk students, emphasizing the development of four core skills: emotion regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance (Linehan, 1993). The purpose of this investigation is to describe the rationale for, and development of, a school-based DBT skills program for students attending a continuation high school in an underserved area, known as School-Based Opportunities for Adolescent Recovery (SOARing). Although it is not the first project to implement school-based DBT, SOARing is among the first to devise a 12-week, group intervention protocol through formative testing and evaluate its preliminary appropriateness. Field note data from a pre-pilot trial were collected in order to determine the program’s feasibility and acceptability. Results from these field notes and student satisfaction questionnaires indicate that the intervention was positively received, with constructive feedback from the students successfully incorporated as modifications to the program. These findings have since informed the protocol refinement of a larger randomized proof-of-concept trial that will test the effectiveness of SOARing in improving psychological and academic outcomes.
Keywords: school-based interventions, dialectical behavior therapy, adolescent mental health, feasibility and acceptability