DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a compelling therapy used for the treatment of addiction. During therapy sessions, the affected individual gains the ability to overcome damaging emotions and substance-abusing behaviors. Instead, treatment providers help the patients establish positive behaviors that will help them develop a solid foundation in the addiction recovery process. Addiction is usually increased by dysfunctional emotions and self-destructive behaviors. The emotional, mental, and physical instability that results from chronic substance use may worsen such patterns even more with this damage, undermining the individual’s career, destroying their relationships, and worsening their health. Despite knowing the repercussions, it can still be hard for these people to change. Many people also have a problem accepting their situations and this can be a barrier to their recovery.

Dialectical Behavior therapy promotes one’s balance between acceptance and change thus empowering the individual to take the necessary action towards recovery. Throughout the DBT process, the individual will learn how to set affirming and positive goals, establish skills for relapse prevention, manage any unhealthy emotions, and control cravings or urges. All the above changes can help the person establish a balance of the spirit, body, and mind while nourishing their sobriety.

Uses in Addiction Treatment

Doctor Marsha M. Linehan developed this treatment method originally for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder but since then, it has been taken up as a treatment for some types of mental illness including substance use disorders. The fact that it can be applied both ways makes it a good option for treatment programs dealing with a dual diagnosis. Dialectical behavioral therapy can either be provided in an inpatient or outpatient setting, but inpatient rehabilitation has more intensive healing opportunities and therapies compared to outpatient care.

For DBT to work effectively, both the client and the therapist must have a collaborative alliance which might be difficult initially, but the method is beneficial in helping clients establish this essential relationship.

Once the DBT treatment commences, it promotes total abstinence in the individual in question which makes it an intimidating method for someone who is just newly recovering. For this reason, the treatment breaks long-term sobriety down into smaller goals that can be achieved more easily. After one achieves a goal successfully, that person moves on to the next goal and starts all over again.This continuous success in achieving goals allows the person to gain stability as well as proximity to long-term abstinence.

Several behaviors will be targeted as the DBT treatment continues in an effort to better one’s chances of complete recovery. This includes:

  • Strengthening the individual’s healthy environments, behaviors, and relationships that promote sobriety
  • Getting through any thoughts or behaviors that trigger the individual’s substance abuse
  • Eliminating any environmental or social triggers of substance abuse, including events, places, or people
  • Decreasing the individual’s temptations and cravings for relapse
  • Alleviating or reducing withdrawal symptoms

The primary goal of this mode of treatment is to help individuals gain a clear mind so they can be focused on their recovery goals while maintaining awareness of any possible threats to their sobriety. The combination of mindfulness and a clear mind will help patients avoid any relapse triggers and deal with them accordingly if any.

The Development of Sober Living Skills

Another primary function of dialectical behavior therapy is to teach the individual life skills that are beneficial in supporting sober living. This is called enhancing one’s capabilities.

Substance addiction can make it hard for the affected individuals to take proper care of themselves. It can be hard for someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs to maintain healthy behaviors, follow through on significant responsibilities, and make positive choices. Most of the time when people come for substance abuse treatment for the first time, they might not possess specific life skills if the ones they have do not need improvement. A dialectical behavior therapist will aid the client in identifying any of their living areas that need work. After the client and the therapist establish these areas, they work in coordination to establish life skills that can combat these negative influences.

At times, the reaction of patients to certain situations can actually make their condition even worse, more so if alcohol or drugs are influencing their thoughts and judgment. In order to counteract this, some personalized coping skills are established to fit the obstacles the person may face in life.

DBT focuses on the improvement of four primary areas of the individual’s life, which include:

  1. Distress Tolerance skills- The sessions work to reduce or eliminate any self-destructive behaviors instilled in the person’s life. The person will work to come up with tools to help in overcoming critical situations under the guidance of the therapist. The patient will also learn how to better deal with stress and alleviate it with the practice of radical acceptance being an example. (Radical acceptance is encouraging someone to accept the moment in the now as opposed to trying to change or resist it)
  2. Interpersonal effectiveness- addiction puts a strain on people’s relationships and these relationships will suffer as the person continues to prioritize drugs over other things. This area helps the person learn how to enhance their relationship and communication skills
  3. Mindfulness skills- Mindfulness shows you how to be more present and aware at the moment as opposed to being overwhelmed by feelings linked to the future and the past. Paying more attention to the present moment allows the person to be in a better position to develop a more balanced and calm state of mind. It also aids in alleviating stress, which is a trigger for addiction relapse
  4. Emotion regulation skills- Dysfunctional and negative emotions may also trigger an individual’s substance abuse. If the addicts cannot process their emotions in a healthy manner, they might fall back into temptation and try to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, thus, causing a relapse. DBT therapy sessions teach the individual to relate to their emotions more productively and regulate them accordingly.

Uses of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

DDT can help those suffering from a mental illness to deal with troubled relationships, stress, and emotional stability more appropriately. The method can also help in healing any hurt caused by these same issues. Most people who struggle with addiction usually also suffer from another type of mental illness and this is referred to as dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder. When someone suffers from both these mental health conditions, their emotions can go out of control and it can become harder for them to deal with stressful situations. The integration of DDT with another recovery treatment plan can help the individual restore mental and emotional balance and stability.