Unearthing the root causes of addiction and learning how to develop new ways of thinking and behaving can help those who struggle with substance abuse. One therapeutic approach that may improve the outcome for individuals combating addiction and substance problems is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Research demonstrates that Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a useful tool for treating addiction. It’s also practical for tackling other illnesses and conditions, like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

In the late 1980s, psychologist Marsha M. Linehan used cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to treat borderline personality disorder patients. Linehan developed dialectical behavior therapy in response to what she viewed as CBT’s limitations.

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How is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Different from CBT?

women going through dbt for addiction

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of CBT that promotes a balance of both change and acceptance. This therapy helps empower patients to develop healthy coping mechanisms in response to stress, understand triggers, manage emotions, and set positive goals.

In this context, ‘dialectics’ refers to bringing two opposite things together, specifically the wholehearted acceptance of an individual as they are with the knowledge that they must change. Although a therapist may understand an individual and accept them, it’s up to the individual to be willing to change so they can live a fuller, freer life. DBT forges a collaborative partnership between the therapist and patient, so that the long-term goal of recovery can be broken down into smaller, more manageable goals.

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Dialectical Behavior Theory

DBT is based on the theory that some human beings react in an unusual way to their emotions during interactions with friends, romantic partners, and family members. These intense and long-lasting emotional responses can affect an individual’s life in unwelcome ways.

How Can Unusually Intense Emotions Negative Impact a Person’s Life?

If a person experiences emotions in an abnormally intense way, mood swings can make life, and daily interactions feel chaotic. An individual might feel happy in an almost euphoric way before descending into gloom or sadness due to illogical beliefs or a misunderstood situation.

Someone who feels strong emotional impulses might also perceive the world in more binary terms. For example, they might fear they’re hated if they do something relatively insignificant (such as showing up late somewhere) that annoys a friend.

The Three Characteristics of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

  1. Supportive: Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on supporting the individual and helping him or her discover their strengths. In turn, this helps build self-esteem and self-confidence.
  2. Cognitive: DBT unravels thought processes, so individuals can more easily identify the beliefs underneath their thoughts and confront unhelpful beliefs and ideas.
  3. Collaborative: A therapist will role-play problems in relevant relationships, modeling new ways of communicating and thinking.

Patients undergoing this therapy will also be assigned real-world homework that will bring therapy techniques – like calming techniques  – directly into their lives and relationships.

Cornerstones of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

In weekly individual psychotherapy sessions, patients review the past week, tackling any severe issues first, like impulses to self-harm. Then, the patients work on any problems that may interfere with their progress in therapy.

Weekly Group Session

A therapist leads weekly group sessions, usually about 2.5 hours long, where patients develop practical skills that fall into four categories: effective communication with others, stress tolerance, emotional regulation, and mindfulness.

Find Healing and Recovery at Beachway Therapy Center

At Beachway Therapy Center, trained therapists are ready to assist those combatting addiction or substance abuse issues. The road to recovery and healing can be difficult, which is why Beachway provides an ideal, life-affirming environment for patients. Compassionate staff, proven therapies, and customized treatment plans offer those dealing with substance abuse, and addiction issues hope for a better future.

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