Cyrus Butler


Spring 2021


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Jana Lo Bello Miller and Melissa Erickson

Content Expert

Kari Smith


Butler, C. (2021). Psych 101: Creating an Equitable Psychology Curriculum to Teach Students DBT Mental Health Skills in an ALC Setting. The research question addressed in this project was, how can we create an equitable psychology curriculum to teach students DBT skills in an ALC setting? The rising mental health needs of modern teenagers were specified. The historical mistreatment of women, people of color, homosexual people, and transgender people in the field of psychology was detailed. Additionally, mental health outcome disparities and misdiagnosis of disorders for people of color were reported. Historical and current realities of education of marginalized populations in the United States were outlined. Culturally responsive teaching was proposed as a framework for creating an equitable curriculum. Factors that can contribute to poor teaching such as cultural blindness, implicit bias, and the deficit perspective were identified. The effectiveness of culturally responsive teaching in the classroom was reviewed. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was identified as a promising method for teaching mental health skills to teens. Dialectics, or the concept that two opposing statements can be true at the same time, were portrayed. The impact of trauma on students in high schools was presented, and DBT was proposed as a possible method to build students’ reliance to trauma. The four skills modules of DBT (mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) were described and their usefulness and relevance to high school students’ lives was explained. DBT skills and social-emotional learning were connected, and the impact of SEL in the high school classroom was expressed. The history and research related to the DBT STEPS-A curriculum were chronicled. A culturally responsive psychology curriculum was developed that included lessons about traditional psychology content, trauma, addiction, DBT, and each of the four DBT skills modules. The curriculum will be implemented at several diverse Twin Cities suburban ALCs starting in the summer of 2021. Finally, implications and limitations of the new curriculum were stated.

Project Type



Curriculum, Psychology, Mental Health, SEL








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