In the depths of addiction, alcohol and drug use can become an overwhelming force in a person’s life. It can impact mood, behavior, work-life, and harm close relationships with friends and loved ones.
For many people, trying to control the feelings of guilt, anger, and shame that often arise with these difficulties can feel like an impossible task.
One of the most important steps to regain a greater sense of control in cases of addiction is to remove the drugs and alcohol from a person’s grasp through detox. Becoming sober, however, is not where a person’s recovery journey ends.
Recovering from addiction can require intensive treatment and support, such as that offered within our residential rehab program at The Treehouse.
Within a structured rehab program, patients can benefit from treatment that addresses not only the effects of addiction but the underlying causes that led to a person’s substance abuse.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is one type of treatment that can be useful for digging into how a person’s thoughts and emotions impact their behaviors, such as those related to a person’s drug or alcohol use.
Learning to understand this connection can help patients stay sober and teach valuable life skills patients can use in their personal, work, and social lives.
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What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of psychotherapy that was originally developed in the 1970s to treat suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people with a borderline personality disorder.
It has since been adapted to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUDs).
Similar in nature to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a core aspect of DBT is exploring the connection between a person’s thoughts, emotions, and how that influences their behavior.
Unlike CBT, however, DBT focuses on finding a balance between acceptance and change. Acceptance, in this context, refers largely to accepting difficult thoughts or emotions you’re having rather than trying to reframe or replace them with more positive counterparts.
This step of acceptance in DBT can promote greater self-awareness and provide a more realistic framework for going on to change a person’s unhealthy or harmful patterns.
This approach is comparable to the philosophy expressed in 12-step programs, which advocates for accepting the things a person cannot change and having the courage to make changes that are within their grasp.
Goals Of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy is a collaborative process, meaning that although the therapist is guiding individual sessions, true progress comes from the patient and therapist communicating together to outline focused goals.
The primary aim of DBT is to help patients develop a “clear mind” with a focus on achieving their goals for recovery while also accepting and preparing for potential barriers.
This focused mindset is encouraged through multiple components of the therapeutic process. Dialectical behavioral therapy is generally categorized as a form of “talk therapy,” wherein open dialogue is encouraged and deemed essential to a person’s progress.
However, therapists may also guide sessions by helping patients set practical goals for their treatment, and assigning homework assignments to work on outside structured sessions.
The framework of DBT contains five essential functions:
Motivation: Increasing a patient’s motivation for engaging in treatment and staying sober outside of a structured rehab setting is a key component of DBT.
Enhancing Capabilities: DBT services help patients recognize how their skills and capabilities can be used to foster a balanced and mindful future in sobriety.
Skill-Building: Finding useful coping strategies to manage triggers, and teaching life skills that are grounded in mindfulness practice and acceptance, can be integral to positive change and outcomes.
Structured Environment: In DBT, it is important to create an environment that can best facilitate mental and emotional healing in a patient recovering from substance abuse.
This can be achieved through building a collaborative relationship between patient and therapist and removing harmful influences that could impede a person’s sobriety or success in treatment
Enhancing Therapist Capabilities: Therapists who practice DBT actively work to stay up-to-date on DBT techniques and continue strengthening their capabilities as a therapist to effectively support and promote positive change in patients.
Benefits Of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy For Treating Addiction
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) treatment offers a valuable experience for patients in addiction rehab programs to learn valuable life skills for self-growth and positive change.
As a type of therapy that was pointedly designed to target dangerous and out-of-control behaviors, DBT offers a focused approach for helping people with a history of substance abuse stay sober and manage triggering situations in their sobriety.
Several benefits of DBT for overcoming addiction include:
- validation for the emotional difficulties a person experiences without losing sight of the broader goal of adopting healthier coping skills and behaviors
- identifies potential influences or barriers that could hinder a person’s progress in their treatment and sobriety
- prioritizes the safety of patients who are experiencing significant emotional or psychological distress
- can help reduce cravings and urges to return to harmful substance use patterns
- reinforces the adoption of healthy boundaries and fostering positive relationships with others
- teaches mindfulness skills that can be used for stress management during difficult or triggering situations
- teaches important distress tolerance and emotional regulation skills to help patients better manage feelings of distress and other difficult emotions
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can also be very beneficial for dual diagnosis patients who have another mental disorder in addition to substance use issues.
At The Treehouse, DBT is offered as an effective component of our co-occurring disorder treatment programs, as an approach that can offer several benefits for managing symptoms of mental illness and recovering from addiction.
Begin Your Recovery At The Treehouse
Addiction treatment at The Treehouse integrates several individual and group-based behavioral therapies within our curriculum to promote emotional and psychological healing during the recovery process.
The core therapies offered at our treatment facility include:
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Matrix Model for addiction recovery
At The Treehouse, we operate through holistic treatment philosophy that recognizes the importance of addressing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harms of addiction.
Our beautiful, 65-acre campus provides a peaceful and restorative setting for patients to participate in both indoor and outdoor activities to inspire greater motivation for recovery and provide useful skills for a balanced and successful future in sobriety.
Learn more about addiction rehab programs at The Treehouse by contacting one of our treatment specialists online or by calling our 24/7 support line today.
What Are The Five Main Points of Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
The five main points of DBT, also referred to as functions, are: enhancing capabilities, generalizing capabilities, improving motivation and reducing dysfunctional behaviors, and structuring the environment.
The therapist teaches enhanced behavioral skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness and generalizes how to use them within everyday life at school or work, at home, or in the community.
Motivational techniques are explored to see what the patient responds to and the patient is taught to use these techniques as a self-managed toolkit. It could be just making small steps toward patient-set goals, which will build the patient up from feeling sluggish and having more confidence by seeing results. If this technique isn’t working, focus on another goal, and make a few steps in that direction. When confidence begins to build as efforts show results, either complete the second task or revert to the original task.
Building on these skills will naturally show reduced dysfunctional behavior such as acting out, substance use, and suicidal thoughts and tendencies.
All of these techniques are learned in a structured therapy environment, which itself acts as a fifth technique to provide rules to follow, as often expected in life. Weekly meetings in-person, balanced with available phone resources for patients when needed in between by a support team trained for telephone therapy.
Through all of these functions, the therapist also has motivation, skills, and structures for themselves to continue to hone to be effective for their patient. Outside assessment in the therapist/client progress is helpful to determine the therapy approaches are showing desired results.
Before this therapeutic approach method, both therapists and patients were left unfulfilled when a patient would leave treatment because the method wasn’t effectively reaching them and they preferred modification over “change” approach. DBT is a clinically effective tool and can reduce the dysfunctional behaviors that affect the quality of life.
What Are Dialectical Behavior Therapy Techniques?
DBT focuses on developing four skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotion regulation. Mindfulness of being aware and accepting in the present moment; distress tolerance skills for coping with emotions during times of high stress; interpersonal effectiveness to identify your wants and needs and communicate in a healthy manner; emotion regulation builds more awareness of how to manage emotions and solve problems in helpful ways rather than reacting to emotional urges.
What Is The Difference Between Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
CBT focuses on reshaping thoughts and behaviors by using the images, beliefs, attitudes, and thoughts in a person’s mind. These processes directly correspond with behavior.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness — Psychotherapy
- Addiction Science & Clinical Practice — Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Abusers