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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is a proven treatment for addiction, especially in the case of co-disorders.

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps people learn and use new skills and strategies to build healthy lives they feel are worth living. DBT is a talking therapy from a cognitive-behavioral approach. There are two main, somewhat opposing strategies that individuals incorporate during treatment:

  • Acceptance: Your experiences and behaviors are valid.
  • Change: You must make positive changes to manage emotions and move forward.

These processes are referred to as dialectics. Dialectics is based on the concept that everything consists of opposites, and change occurs when there is a dialogue between them. During DBT, a therapist and patient work with acceptance and change to balance and synthesize the two concepts.

With a focus on learning about the triggers that lead to intense surges of emotion and assessing which coping methods to apply, DBT can also help recovering addicts avoid undesired reactions and relapse, especially those with mental disorders.

DBT was designed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). Still, we have since learned that it is also effective in treating other disorders, including depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, trauma and PTSD, and bipolar disorder.

Benefits of DBT

DBT aims to help its patients by: 

  • Decreasing high risk suicidal and self-harming behavior
  • Decreasing behaviors that hinder the quality of life
  • Learning and mastering behavior skills 
  • Decreasing symptoms caused by trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Enhancing and sustaining self-respect
  • Assisting with goal setting to create a life worth living

By focusing on facts rather than emotions or value judgments, DBT can help you respond positively and productively, without descending into destructive thoughts and behaviors.

The 3 Components of DBT

DBT programs usually take a full year, depending on the complexity of an individual’s situation. The standard therapy program usually has three main components, each serving a specific function:

DBT Skills Training Group

The purpose is to help people introduce effective and practical skills in their lives when they feel distressed. These skills replace other unhealthy and negative habits. Tasks are provided for people to practice between sessions. Patients learn behavioral skills and how to interact with others through homework assignments and role-playing.

Individual Psychotherapy

This form of therapy focuses on enhancing motivation and applying skills to specific challenges and events in their lives. These sessions offer opportunities for patients and their therapists to come together and discuss their individual goals. The goal is to empower the person to take control of their life.

Phone Coaching

Therapists use telephone coaching to provide support in real-time. Our therapists will coach you through a stressful event and encourage you to use your DBT skills as it occurs. The goal is to ensure that learned skills are applied to an individual’s daily life.

The 4 Skill Modules of DBT

DBT includes four behavioral skill modules, with two acceptance-oriented skills and two change-oriented skills. They include:


Mindfulness helps individuals focus on the present and live in the moment. The goal is to acknowledge thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as they happen without controlling them. This helps individuals pay attention to how they are thinking and feeling without any judgment. These skills help to focus on developing healthy coping mechanisms to keep you calm.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness teaches you how to interact with people in their relationships. It is essential to keep these relationships positive and healthy. Skills taught include effective strategies for asking for what you need, being assertive, and learning to cope with interpersonal conflict.

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance helps you accept yourself and your current situation instead of trying to change it. The four sets of crisis survival strategies are: distracting, self-soothing, improving the moment, and thinking of pros and cons. This strategy teaches individuals how to bear pain skillfully and manage intense emotions.

Emotion Regulation

Individuals with sudden emotions benefit from help in learning to regulate their emotions. Emotion regulation helps work through feelings by identifying and naming them. The idea is that if you can recognize and cope with intense negative emotions, it will reduce your emotional vulnerability and help you have more positive emotional experiences.

Will DBT Work for Me?

While Dialectical Behavioral Therapy research has focused on borderline personality disorder for years, it is also a proven treatment option for other mental health conditions, including addiction. This form of therapy is effective for any age, sex, orientation, and race. 

That said, every individual is different, and the therapist will adapt any treatment to fit the patient’s needs. To find out if DBT works for you, call one of our Treatment Navigators today. They will evaluate symptoms, treatment history, and therapy goals to see if Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is the right solution for you or your loved one.

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