Distress Tolerance Skills for Young People


Distress Tolerance Skills for Young People

Presented by Dr. Madeline Wishart

Pain is part of the human experience, and we all experience crises at different times in our lives. Some young people have difficulty tolerating any distress and regulating their emotions, engaging in unhelpful behaviours in an attempt to downregulate (i.e., to reduce, alleviate or ameliorate unwanted emotions) or upregulate their emotions (i.e., to generate feelings or feel something). Unlike traditional therapies, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) takes a skills-based approach to learning to sit with, and accept these uncomfortable emotions when pain is unavoidable. Distress tolerance skills are aimed at helping young people cope with crises and experience distress without avoiding it or making it worse.

This full day workshop will draw upon the distress tolerance and mindfulness modules of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) to teach a range of coping, distress tolerance, and mindfulness skills. These skill sets will focus on strategies that can be assimilated directly back into your work with young people. These skills will equip young people to more effectively manage intense, overwhelming, or uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, memories, images, urges, and physical sensations without resorting to unhelpful, impulsive, challenging or harmful behaviours, such as self-injury, substance use, binge eating, lashing out, numbing, or avoidance. 

See below for full workshop description and Dr Madeline Wishart's Bio.

2024 DATES

Virtual: Wednesday 21st February
Friday 3rd May
Virtual: Wednesday 7th August, (this date was previously scheduled in Sydney but will now be a virtual workshop)
Virtual: Friday 18th October

All workshops are 9am - 4pm

In the event that covid related issues prevent a F2F event going ahead workshop will revert to an online format.


ACTIVE CPD HOURS: This workshop has an optional post workshop assessment. Delegates who complete this assessment are able to claim 6 hours of Active CPD.

CPD Hours: All other delegates are able to claim 6 hours of self identified CPD in your respective professions.


Virtual Workshops:
Early Bird:
$352 inc GST (15 days prior to workshop) Standard: $407 inc GST (within 15 business days of workshop)

F2F Workshops:
Early Bird: Workshop: $407 inc GST (15 days prior to workshop) Standard: $462 inc GST (within 15 business days of workshop)


Dr Madeline Wishart is a Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), and young people who experience difficulty in regulating their emotionally and tolerating distress. She has a PhD, along with a Masters in both Professional and Clinical Psychology. Madeline has a combined history of both research and practical experience across a variety of settings. She has worked in the education, community, private and psychiatric sectors as a youth, school, trauma counsellor, and psychologist. In an academic and research capacity, Madeline has been employed as a sessional lecturer and project officer at Victoria University; and a research officer at Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) in Melbourne. For the past two decades, Madeline has provided professional training in NSSI and distress tolerance in young people, and she has been invited to present at a number of international mental health conferences. Madeline currently divides her time between her private practice – Wishart Psychology; and working in a consultative capacity with schools providing professional development, therapeutic support and policy development around NSSI and coping skills more broadly.

With an academic background and vast experience in working with young people engaging in NSSI, including as a school counsellor, Dr Wishart understands the unique challenges of working with young people. Dr Wishart's workshops are comprehensive and highly practical - much of which you will be able to directly and immediately incorporate into your own work with young people.

Workshop Outline


Session 1
This session will focus on laying the theoretical underpinnings for understanding distress tolerance, including a brief introduction to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Why do some adolescents struggle with tolerating distress and regulating their emotions? Emotions eek! - avoid, numb, supress, and push away at all costs! What is Distress Tolerance? When and why distress tolerance skills should be used.

Session 2
During this session we will examine the “D” in DBT – Dialectics. An overview of the empirical evidence of DBT skills for adolescents. Therapeutic assumptions in DBT and the goals of distress tolerance. Mindfulness is a superpower, so let’s get really comfortable with it. Mindfulness myth busting. Putting the “What” and “How” mindfulness skills into practice.

Session 3
The three mind states in DBT. Validation versus the “but”. Beyond rubber bands: using distress tolerance skills for harmful or unhelpful behaviours. Crisis survival skills, skills, skills. Creating a crisis survival kit.

Session 4
Distress tolerance skills for when the crisis is addiction. Acceptance DBT style – it’s radical! Creating change and challenging young people when they feel “stuck”. Practice, patience, persistence, and perseverance: lessons from nature.


  • Developing an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings for understanding distress tolerance, including a brief introduction to Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).
  • Understanding why mindfulness is a core skill in DBT; and how to effectively put the “what” and “how” skills of mindfulness into practice with young people.
  • Knowledge of a range of distress tolerance skills to assist young people in more effectively managing intense and overwhelming emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, urges, or memories.
  • Developing an understanding of crisis survival skills and how to create a distress tolerance action plan, and crisis survival kit with young people.