What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

There are many treatment paths that can lead to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. The key is for individuals to participate in treatments or therapies that are ideal for their needs. Many of today’s best addiction rehab centers feature multiple therapies that complement one another by targeting different aspects of a person’s addiction.

Many people experiencing a form of substance addiction also have an underlying mental health condition–as many as a third of people suffering from addiction have what’s known as a dual diagnosis. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, is designed to help people manage their mental health condition and substance use disorder at the same time. DBT is a form of psychotherapy developed during the 1980s. Today, it’s used to treat addiction and various types of mental illness that are often present in dual diagnosis.

Addiction may precede a mental health condition or occur as a result of it. In either case, it’s crucial that both conditions are treated at the same time for best results. Although addiction and mental illness are separate health conditions, they often impact one another. A mental illness that is unaddressed will make it difficult to manage a drug or alcohol addiction effectively.

During DBT sessions, clients learn how to develop healthy ways to manage their stress and emotions, improve their relationships, and live in the moment. Although this therapy was originally developed to treat people with borderline personality disorder, it has since been adapted to treat many other conditions, including post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and, of course, drug and alcohol addiction.

Resurgence Behavioral Health treats people who are living with addiction and mental health conditions. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is just one of the evidence-based treatments we provide to clients with co-occurring conditions. Here, we’ll explore this treatment in detail–how it works and the benefits it provides.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

How Does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy features several focus points that are essential for dual diagnosis management and for addressing self-destructive behaviors. One of its core tenets is to improve communication skills. An inability to communicate effectively can lead to pent-up feelings that can result in angry outbursts or lingering sadness. Therapists instruct clients how to express themselves and communicate how they feel in healthy ways that are likely to alleviate some of their negative emotions. The goal with improved communication is that there is less temptation to self-medicate away those negative emotions like fear, anger, or sadness.

Another core tenet of DBT is the development of healthy coping skills. Using drugs or alcohol to soothe away negative feelings is not a positive coping strategy. Therapists help clients develop new healthful coping strategies. One strategy may work well for one person but not another. Therapists can tailor this aspect of DBT to each individual, helping them find positive ways to cope with their emotions as well as other symptoms of their mental health condition and addiction.

Lastly, the development of a positive self-image is a core focus of DBT. Many people living with dual diagnoses experience a negative self-image. They may feel down about themselves for their inability to manage cravings or triggers. They may feel powerless at times and overwhelmed, which can undermine their positive self-image as well. Therapists help clients develop feelings of empowerment. As clients learn how to manage the symptoms of their conditions, they feel better about themselves and their circumstances and this, in turn, is a tremendous benefit to their recovery process.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Addiction Treatment

Many of the strategies involved in dialectical behavioral therapy help clients manage their addiction as well as their mental health. Mindfulness is an important part of DBT and mimics many other evidence-based and alternative addiction treatments that also promote purposeful thinking and action. Clients learn how to be mindful of their negative thinking patterns and behaviors in order to prevent engaging further with them.

During therapy, participants practice distress tolerance. In the past when feeling distressed by negative emotions or symptoms associated with their mental illness, clients may have turned to drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating. DBT helps clients manage and tolerate distress without using unhealthy substances as a crutch. They learn to cope with their negative feelings or symptoms in healthier ways.

DBT’s strong interpersonal focus helps clients develop more effective ways of communicating with other people. Stable relationships with others can foster the recovery process and nurture a person’s positive self-image. With improvements in one’s ability to communicate and regulate their emotions, they can more effectively manage their triggers to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

Benefits of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy features many benefits for a person who is trying to manage a substance use disorder and mental health symptoms. Clients learn actionable techniques for managing their emotions in healthy ways. They learn ways to change their behavior and even their surroundings to support their ability to prevent relapse.

Clients also learn how to improve their cooperation skills and how to recognize their own individual strengths–strengths they can rely on during times of stress. During therapy, therapists might encourage individuals to strive to reach certain goals. DBT can be highly individualized, which makes it a dynamic treatment that both addiction rehabs and clients find helpful.

DBT is an evidence-based therapy, so it’s been shown to work from a medical standpoint. It also works well in conjunction with other addiction treatment and mental health therapies. Clients who take part in DBT can also benefit by taking part in peer group counseling, restorative yoga, and other common addiction treatments. By developing their individual skill sets, clients can enhance and improve on their ability to manage co-occurring disorders.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Techniques

Therapists focus on different techniques associated with each of DBT’s core tenets. For instance, they practice noting elements in a person’s surroundings and discussing them in non-judgemental ways. Then, they can apply this technique to more individualized situations. For instance, when having a discussion with a loved one, they may be able to listen and evaluate the discussion with a reduced emotional response. This can lead to more successful communication.

To promote distress tolerance, therapists help clients develop self-soothing practices. Part of these techniques includes breaking the person’s need to soothe with alcohol or drugs, the other aspect is finding healthy practices that the person can rely on to simply ‘feel better’ when they’re suffering distress.

A therapist might assign tasks that instruct a client to practice and then rank various types of self-soothing techniques. This helps them discover the methods that will work best for them. These techniques might involve exercise, yoga, reading, journaling, or some other avenue that allows them to mentally take a break from whatever is causing their stress or distress.

Clients learn how to make improvements to a negative situation. If they can’t soothe away its negativity or positively distract themselves from it, they can take proactive measures to improve the situation. For example, having a heated discussion with a spouse at home could be improved by pausing the conversation and moving it to a park. Walking together in a different environment could render the discussion less volatile.

When it comes to the communication tenet of DBT, clients learn techniques to validate the other individual’s points and, importantly, to remain gentle during discussions. They practice focusing on being light-hearted while talking to others. The more they cultivate the gentle and lighthearted forms of communicating, the more it becomes part of their routine.

Techniques like discussion and role playing can form a substantial part of a DBT therapy session. Clients practice the techniques they learn in therapy as well as outside of therapy as they transition back to their everyday lives. Therapists may also invite them to discuss how the use of their techniques are working back in their lives so that they can refine them further as needed.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy at Resurgence Behavioral Health

Resurgence Behavioral Health relies on medically sanctioned forms of cognitive behavioral therapy, including dialectical behavioral therapy to help clients improve their self-management skills. By improving their ability to manage and regulate distress and emotions, they’re better able to take control of their mental health condition to manage symptoms and to keep the triggers to relapse at bay.

Our therapists employ DBT to treat a wide range of mental health conditions that may also involve drug or alcohol addiction. People who are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder, suicidal behaviors, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder can benefit from this type of therapy.

The key to any successful treatment plan is accurate diagnosis. Resurgence specializes in behavioral health treatment as well as drug and alcohol addiction therapy. This means that we have the ability to effectively treat dual diagnoses in its many different forms. If you are experiencing addiction or mental health issues, contact us today for an evaluation. We can help you manage your conditions and help you achieve lasting recovery.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.