Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in Addiction Treatment

Also known as DBT, dialectical behavior therapy is a form of therapy and counseling that is commonly used in the management of substance abuse and addiction in the context of a drug or an alcohol treatment program. The goal of this form of therapy would be to help you embrace acceptance and change so that you will be in a better position to start leading a sober and healthy lifestyle.

About Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT or dialectical behavior therapy is one of the dynamic therapy options that is used in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction. The therapy sessions will be used to help you overcome your damaging emotions and negative behaviors linked to substance abuse and addiction. In place of these emotions and behaviors, you will learn how to create more positive ones so that you can build a foundation for success in your long term recovery.

The basis for this form of therapy is substance abuse and addiction are often fueled by dysfunctional emotions and self-destructive behaviors. The emotional, mental, and physical instability that arises from chronic alcohol and drug use, on the other hand, can also aggravate all these patterns much more than they used to. As a result of this damage, you might notice that your health might be depleted, your relationships destroyed, and your career and progress in life undermined.

Although you might have this knowledge, it could still be difficult for you to change your life for the better. In the same way, you may still be struggling to accept your situation - which could also reduce your chances of recovery.

To this end, the goal of dialectical behavior therapy would be to encourage you to find a balance between acceptance and change. As a result of this balance, you would be empowered to take positive steps towards a lifestyle that is free of drugs and alcohol.

In the course of therapy, you will also learn how to control your cravings and urges, develop effective relapse prevention skills, set affirming and positive goals, and manage any unhealthy emotions that you might have. Through these changes - taken together - you may also be able to nourish your sobriety as well as create a better balance between your mind, spirit, and body.

DBT in Addiction Treatment

Dr. Marsha Linehan originally developed dialectical behavior therapy for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Ever since, it has been adapted for the treatment of addiction and many other types of mental illnesses. For this reason, DBT is commonly used in dual diagnosis integrated treatment programs and centers.

The therapy option might be offered in an inpatient or an outpatient setting. However, inpatient settings will often be able to offer you more opportunities for recovery and healing and more intensive therapists than you may be able to find in outpatient settings.

For the dialectical behavior therapy to prove successful, it is essential that you form a collaborative professional partnership with your therapist. Although this might be difficult during the first few sessions of treatment, the therapy methods used could prove helpful in making it easier for you.

When treatment has begun, you will be encouraged to maintain complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. If you are new to recovery, this might seem intimidating. To make it easier, DBT will break down your long term recovery and sobriety into smaller goals that are easier to obtain.

To this end, your dialectical behavior therapist might suggest that you set small goals - such as maintaining your sobriety for a hour or a day or even a week. After you have succeeded in attaining this goal, you can renew it and restart the process. While working towards success, you will gain stability. You will also be able to move closer to a lifestyle of complete sobriety in the long term.

As your treatment progresses, this therapy option will target some of the behaviors that could improve your chances of recovering fully from your substance abuse and addiction. These behaviors include:

  • Alleviating or reducing withdrawal symptoms
  • Overcoming thoughts and behaviors that encourage your alcohol and drug abuse
  • Reducing temptations for relapse and cravings for drugs
  • Reinforcing healthy environments, relationships, and behaviors that support your ongoing sobriety
  • Removing all environmental and social triggers that could lead to renewed drug and alcohol abuse, including events, people, and places

One of the goals of dialectical behavior therapy would be to help you develop a clear mind. In this mental state, you will be focused on your recovery goals while still maintaining your awareness of all potential threats to your long term sobriety. Through mindfulness and a clear mind, you will be in a better position to avoid potential relapse triggers as well as cope with them in case they arise.

Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Addiction treatment centers will mostly use DBT to improve certain areas of your life, including but not limited to the following:

  • Distress tolerance skills
  • Emotion regulation skills
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Mindfulness skills

This form of therapy is effective because of its foundation in different functions. Through these functions, you will be in a better positive to uproot negative behaviors, emotions, and thoughts in your life that have been undermining your sobriety.

For instance, dialectical behavior therapy can enhance your capabilities by improving and teaching your life skills to nurture a lifestyle of stable and reliable recovery. The homework assignments given and group therapy sessions can help you achieve these goals.

You will also get the opportunity to generalize capabilities. This is because the therapy sessions will be highly individualized with the goal of helping you develop the coping skills you needed to address the challenges in your life.

Similarly, DBT can improve your motivation and well a reduce any dysfunctional behaviors that you have been engaging in with respect to substance abuse and addiction. The process would boost your desire to positively change your life. You will also be able to structure your environment and enhance and maintain your motivation and capabilities.

Getting Help

Whether you are struggling with a substance use disorder or a co-occurring condition involving addiction and another mental or behavioral health disorder, you can benefit from dialectical behavior therapy as you get started on the road to long term recovery.

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