Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is considered extremely effective in the treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs), including in dual diagnosis treatment, when a mental health disorder co-occurs with addiction. This form of behavioral therapy has been around since the 1970s, when Marsha Lineman, a psychologist, developed it using principles of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Originally used for borderline personality disorder, its efficacy for other mental health diagnoses as well as addiction made it one of the most effective evidence-based treatments. In fact, it’s in use by psychologists, social workers, and addiction specialists.
At Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC), our staff can answer any questions you may have about substance use treatment, DBT for addiction, and the various options we offer, from medical detox to substance-specific rehab programs, outpatient and inpatient offerings and more. Dial 844.442.8673 to speak to someone today, or simply complete this online form, and we will get back to you promptly.
What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Dialectical refers to the working together of opposing forces. In the case of DBT, the forces only seem to be in opposition when actually they work in partnership to help people in recovery achieve a well-being they thought might be out of reach. The two forces are acceptance and change.
First, acceptance of what is happening allows you to stop fighting and start moving. Along with this comes the willingness and ability to shift the current reality to something that serves you better—conditions and attitudes that will enable your mental health and gradually change outcomes with minimal stress.
Dialectical behavior therapy is effective in both group therapy sessions and individual counseling. A psychotherapist trained in the principles and practices of DBT guides you through the steps involved in this form of therapy.
Benefits of DBT for Addiction
The touchpoints of DBT focus on the same elements, whether it is being used for addiction, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, or any other diagnosis. Because addiction is most often linked to thought patterns and belief systems that limit your well-being, the mindfulness, behavior adjustments, and regulation of stress and emotional responses work exceptionally well.
Below are the different aspects used in DBT and their specific benefits to you during this process:
This practice allows focus on your present moment and is integral to DBT. The impulsiveness and reactivity of addiction can be mitigated by mindfulness as you seek other ways to react to and cope with stressful experiences or emotions. Your entire neurological system is soothed using simple mindfulness techniques, which allows the other elements of DBT to work in concert with them. Some of the practices you might use to quiet your thoughts and center your mental energy are meditation, deep breathing, or yoga.
One reason many turn to drink or drugs is to help them cope with mental health symptoms, hardship, trauma, and the many kinds of overwhelm and unexpected upsets that can threaten to derail daily functioning in our hectic world. DBT works for you by helping you develop mechanisms for distress tolerance that do not involve substances. This aspect, like all of the pieces of DBT, goes closely hand in hand with DBT’s mindfulness principles.
Cognitive and Behavioral Modification
Similar to CBT, DBT also focuses on thoughts, beliefs, and expectations to positively affect behaviors. Dialectical behavior therapy seeks to buttress beliefs and expectations that function well for you and that are valid and not warped by dysfunctional or harmful thoughts. By recognizing which of your thoughts and beliefs about the world and yourself you can trust, your behavior will change to reflect these healthy ways of thinking.
If you suffer from a SUD, you are not alone. Like so many others who face similar challenges with substances, you may find it extremely challenging to express your feelings, ask for help, or admit vulnerability. Drugs and alcohol may have permitted short-term emotional release, but rarely is it meaningful and often brings damage rather than healing. DBT helps you become an effective communicator. You can reach out confidently for support while setting clear boundaries. Openness and boundaries work together to make you feel safe and supported in your relationships. At the same time, you say goodbye to the stress of confusing messages, failed connections, and disrupted bonds.
Many who struggle with a SUD wonder if they will ever be able to feel their emotions within a healthy range that does not leave them exhausted, anxious, and overwrought. Managing emotional swings without drugs or alcohol is possible as you practice the elements of DBT. Mindfulness, honest and compassionate communication, distress tolerance—all these work together as you learn to manage your emotions in healthy, safe ways. The ability to manage extreme emotional swings helps you avoid reliance on substances to do that for you. Understanding the impact of extreme lows and highs on behavior is the first step to learning how to find equilibrium.
DBT for Addiction at PAATC
The benefits of DBT are many. Therefore, now is a good time to learn more about how it can help you begin your recovery.
You can benefit from this proven behavioral therapy when you enroll in addiction treatment at PAATC. Reach out today to learn more about the benefits of DBT. Our number is 844.442.8673, or you can fill out this form to connect.