Books & Articles

Books & Articles 2018-02-09T14:55:14+00:00

The Skills System works to produce and support both books and peer review journal articles (on open access) that focus on improving the availability and access to psychologically-based therapeutic supports for individuals with complex learning and behavioral health needs. Our program engages in and supports outside teams conducting both quantitative and qualitative research.


The Oxford Handbook of DBT edited by Michaela Swales due for publication in 2019

Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) experience heighten vulnerabilities related to complex biopsychosocial factors, yet have limited access to comprehensive psychologically-based treatments to address these pervasive problems. Dr. Brown, a DBT trainer with Behavioral Tech, LLC- Linehan Institute, was invited to write a book chapter about how to adapt DBT for individuals with ID. Dr. Brown was given permission to share this work with the stipulation that the following phrase be noted on the document: “This is a draft of a chapter that has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the forthcoming book The Oxford Handbook of DBT edited by Michaela Swales due for publication in 2019”. It is important that practitioners have this information to help improve access to DBT for this under-served population.

Online Version


An updated version, The Emotion Regulation Skills System: A DBT™-Informed Approach was published in 2016.

Informed by the principles and practices of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), this book presents skills training guidelines specifically designed for adults with cognitive challenges. Clinicians learn how to teach core emotion regulation and adaptive coping skills in a framework that promotes motivation and mastery for all learners, and that helps clients apply what they have learned in daily life. The book features ideas for scaffolding learning, a sample 12-week group curriculum that can also be used in individual skills training, and numerous practical tools, including 150 reproducible handouts and worksheets. The large-size format facilitates photocopying. Purchasers also get access to a Web page where they can download and print the reproducible materials.



The Skills System Instructor’s Guide: An Emotion Regulation Skills Curriculum for All Learning Abilities, in 2011.

Having the capacity to benefit from emotions, rather than being paralyzed by them, offers people the opportunity to navigate difficulties, while being able to face life, relationships, and themselves with courage, grace, and strength. In The Skills System Instructor’s Guide, author Julie F. Brown provides a curriculum for helping people improve emotion regulation capacities, which allows the person to actively participate in both joyful and challenging aspects of life.

The guide presents nine simple, user-friendly adaptive coping skills effective for individuals of diverse learning abilities. Based on Dialectic Behavior Therapy principles, the Skills System helps people of all ages learn to effectively regulate emotions, thoughts, and actions to reach personal goals.


Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Communication Crossroads

Julie F. Brown, Johnnie Hamilton-Mason, Peter Maramaldi & L. Jarrett Barnhill

School of Social Work
Simmons College

Department of Psychiatry
University of North Carolina

Brown et al. [1] conducted a constructivist grounded theory qualitative study that examined perspectives of individuals with dual-diagnosis and histories of challenging behaviors (CB) about their family relationships. The original study included thirty individuals diagnosed with:

a. Moderate or mild intellectual disability (ID).

b. Comorbid mental health issues, and

c. Histories of CBs who were divided into five focus groups to discuss their perceptions about relationships.

This review will present observations about how intra-group communication patterns impacted the demonstration of cognitive strengths by participants in the focus group setting.

Download Article PDF

Intellectual Disabilities and Histories of Challenging Behaviors about Family Relationships: An Emergent Topic in a Grounded Theory Focus Group Study

Julie F. Brown, Johnnie Hamilton-Mason, Peter Maramaldi & L. Jarrett Barnhill

Justice Resource Institute–Integrated Clinical Service
Warwick, Rhode Island

School of Social Work
Simmons College

Department of Psychiatry
University of North Carolina

The perspectives of individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) about family relationships are underrepresented in the literature. The topic of family relationships emerged in a grounded theory exploratory focus group study that involved thirty dually diagnosed participants with moderate or mild intellectual disabilities and histories of challenging behaviors. Because of the dearth of existing information and the salience of the topic, this analysis explored properties of the participant’s disclosures associated with family relationships. The aims were to offer treatment providers empirically based information that may inform service provision and increase the availability of ID-specific, psychological supports for dually diagnosed individuals. Participants reported different types and statuses of family relationships. Transactional processes described in positive family relationships included properties such as reciprocity, flexibility, accommodation, trusting, and expressing affection. Conversely, participants described transactional relationship barriers (e.g., victimizing, behavioral dyscontrol, and substance abuse) that involved dysregulated behaviors of both the participants and family members in conflicted and severed family relationships. These factors appeared to lead to co-dysregulation versus co-regulation within the family relationships. These findings are relevant given the consensus in the literature that environmental factors are associated with challenging behaviors. Not only do treatment providers need to understand potential family relationship patterns to provide individual supports, but these multilayered factors may warrant seeking additional treatment modalities that address emotion regulation deficits of the participants and family members, trauma-informed treatment, and family therapy. Additionally, conceptualizing family relationships as transactional may help families and collateral supports co-construct positive, collaborative transactions with dually diagnosed individuals that improve the quality of life of all involved.

Download Research Article PDF


Treating Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and Challenging Behaviors With Adapted Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Brown, J. F., Brown, M.Z., & Dibiasio, P. (2013). Treating individuals with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviors with adapted dialectical behavior therapy. Journal of Mental Health Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 6(4), 280-303.

Julie F. Brown
Skills System at Justice Resource Institute
Warwick, Rhode Island

Milton Z. Brown
Department of Psychology
Alliant International University

Paige Dibiasio
Justice Resource Institute, Supports to Empower People (STEP)
Cranston, Rhode Island

Approximately one third of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have emotion dysregulation and challenging behaviors (CBs). Although research has not yet confirmed that existing treatments adequately reduce CBs in this population, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) holds promise, as it has been shown to effectively reduce CBs in other emotionally dysregulated populations. This longitudinal single-group pilot study examined whether individuals with impaired intellectual functioning would show reductions in CBs while receiving standard DBT individual therapy used in conjunction with the Skills System (DBT-SS), a DBT emotion regulation skills curriculum adapted for individuals with cognitive impairment. Forty adults with developmental disabilities (most of whom also had intellectual disabilities) and CBs, including histories of aggression, self-injury, sexual offending, or other CBs, participated in this study. Changes in their behaviors were monitored over 4 years while in DBT-SS. Large reductions in CBs were observed during the 4 years. These findings suggest that modified DBT holds promise for effectively treating individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Download Pilot Data PDF