Dialectical behavior therapy allows us to recognize the ways our emotions impact our behavior — for a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Dialectical behavior therapy (or DBT) is a subset of cognitive behavioral therapy. The purposes of dialectical behavioral therapy for substance abusers are to regulate emotions, to improve relationships, to create healthy ways of dealing with everyday stress and to live in the moment. Developed in the 1980s as a way of treating borderline personality disorder, DBT is a powerful tool for substance abuse treatment — as well as broad spectrum of co-occurring mental health conditions. It’s especially helpful for those with eating disorders, as well as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
As the name suggests, DBT is founded on a philosophy of dialectics — the idea that everything is made up of opposing forces, and that change can occur only when there is a relationship or “dialogue” between those opposites.
There are three main premises of DBT: 1) Everything is interconnected. 2) Change is unavoidable. 3) Opposites can work together. Together, you and your behavioral health expert can put these premises to work to balance the needs for change and self-acceptance.
So, how can you put these ideas into practice? Dialectical behavioral therapy uses a number of core strategies:
Mindfulness: By learning to live in the moment, you focus on what’s happening around you and in your emotions, without defaulting into an automatic response. It involves paying close attention to your senses and environment.
Tolerance of distress: Nobody wants to feel distress, of course, but it does occur. DBT gives you the tools to cope with emotional distress, including self-soothing, destraction and other techniques.
Interpersonal effectiveness: This strategy gives you the power to assert yourself while still being positive and easy to get along with. By listening and communicating more effectively, you can create healthier relationships.
Emotional regulation: This approach helps you identify and name your emotions, so you can navigate them — and even change them.
Individual therapy: With your individualized recovery plan in place, our clinical team may recommend dialectical behavior therapy as a tool for substance abuse treatment. You and your therapist will work one-on-one to apply the principles of DBT to your specific situation and needs.
Group therapy: Working in a small group can be a very effective way of putting DBT into practice and building interpersonal relationships. Your therapy may involve role playing, homework and other approaches that make the principles of dialectical behavior therapy more intuitive and practical.
Absolutely. At Discovery Point Retreat, our behavioral health team has been trained extensively in this effective treatment tool and can teach you the skills to help you thrive in your recovery journey. DBT is also useful for a number of the co-occurring mental health conditions we treat, as well. If you’d like to learn more about how dialectical behavioral therapy can make a difference for your substance abuse treatment, give us a call. We’d love to tell you more.