Developed by Dr. Marsha M. Linehan in the 1980s, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is rooted in the concept of dialectics, which refers to the synthesis of opposites.
It recognizes the inherent tension between acceptance and change, seeking to help individuals balance these seemingly contradictory elements. DBT emphasizes both validation and the need for personal growth and change.
DBT is an evidence-based therapy that was originally developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
However, it has proven to be highly effective in the treatment of various mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUDs). DBT combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with mindfulness practices, acceptance, and dialectics. Its comprehensive approach addresses emotional dysregulation, self-destructive behaviors, and distorted thinking patterns. In this blog post, we will define DBT, provide examples of its techniques, and explore its application in substance use disorder treatment.
DBT consists of four interconnected modules that provide a comprehensive framework for therapy:
Mindfulness practice is a fundamental component of DBT. It involves cultivating awareness of the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness techniques, such as meditation and breathing exercises, help individuals develop self-awareness, reduce impulsivity, and regulate emotions.
2. Distress Tolerance
Distress tolerance skills focus on helping individuals effectively cope with intense emotions and crises without resorting to self-destructive behaviors. Techniques such as self-soothing, distraction, and radical acceptance enable individuals to tolerate distressing situations and emotions without turning to substance abuse.
3. Emotional Regulation
Emotional regulation skills aim to help individuals understand and manage their emotions in a healthy and adaptive manner. Techniques include identifying and labeling emotions, increasing positive emotional experiences, reducing vulnerability to negative emotions, and developing strategies for emotional regulation.
4. Interpersonal Effectiveness
Interpersonal effectiveness skills help individuals improve their relationships and navigate social interactions. These skills involve effective communication, assertiveness training, setting boundaries, and problem-solving. Developing healthy interpersonal skills is crucial for individuals in recovery, as it enhances their support systems and reduces the risk of relapse.
Some of Align Recovery Centers’s clients have found great success in exploring DBT, both as a standalone therapy and as another arrow in the quiver.
DBT has been successful in helping individuals develop skills to manage cravings and urges to use substances. Techniques such as urge surfing, self-soothing, and mindfulness meditation enable individuals to observe and tolerate cravings without acting on them.
Individuals develop skills to manage cravings and urges to use substances using techniques such as urge surfing, self-soothing, and mindfulness meditation enable individuals to observe and tolerate cravings without acting on them. Strategies such as practicing gratitude or enjoying an activity can increase positive emotions, thereby offsetting the negative ones.
By employing distress tolerance skills and developing alternative coping strategies, individuals can navigate triggers, such as social pressure or stress, without resorting to substance abuse. DBT equips individuals with tools to identify and cope with high-risk situations that may lead to substance use.
DBT assists individuals in developing a relapse prevention plan that includes strategies for recognizing warning signs, managing crises, and accessing support networks. It encourages the use of effective communication and problem-solving skills to maintain abstinence and seek help when needed.
Building a strong support system is crucial in substance use disorder treatment, as it reduces isolation and provides individuals with alternative sources of emotional support. DBT’s interpersonal effectiveness module aids individuals in developing healthy relationships, resolving conflicts, and seeking support from others.
In all things, the staff at Align Recovery Centers seeks to customize ones treatment plan, incorporating various modalities to provide personalized, integrated care. The use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy is another example of this philosophy.
DBT offers a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to substance use disorder treatment.
By incorporating mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills, DBT equips individuals with the tools needed to manage emotions, cope with triggers, prevent relapse, and enhance interpersonal relationships. Its emphasis on balance, acceptance, and change makes it particularly effective in addressing the complex needs of individuals with substance use disorders. DBT’s application in substance use disorder treatment has demonstrated positive outcomes, supporting individuals in their journey towards lasting recovery.
Dana, with over 20 years in addiction therapy and counseling, is the Executive Director at Align Recovery Centers. Holding a B.S. in Human Services and an M.A. in Counseling & Psychology, she’s both an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and a Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor. Specializing in DBT and CBT, Dana effectively manages both residential and outpatient programs. Her interests include gardening, cooking, and delving into psychological research in her spare time.