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.

Using DBT to treat a wide range of disorders, including mental health disorders and addiction, has gained immense popularity within the treatment realm.  DBT can be an effective treatment modality for addiction and mental health disorders.

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DBT and Addiction Treatment

Using DBT to treat a wide range of disorders, including mental health disorders and addiction, is rightfully gaining popularity in the treatment space.

DBT is expansive and is broken down into four major domains: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Traditionally, DBT skills are taught in group settings with two facilitators; one facilitator is responsible for providing education on skills, and the other acts as a moderator for patient behavior.

Many individuals seeking help have been struggling with complex, underlying, and severe emotional problems and often reach to drugs, alcohol, and self-destructive methods as a way to soothe. As a result, individuals seek help because their self-destructive strategies exacerbate their problems, resulting in extraordinarily high-risk and destructive behavior.

With DBT, patients can discover that they are not alone and can be equipped with a toolbox of skills readily available for use when facing new life challenges in recovery. DBT can work, and it’s effective; it can reach many people in the treatment setting if implemented in a practical and informative way.

How is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Different from CBT?

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.

women going through dbt for addiction