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Utilizing Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction Recovery


Utilizing Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction Recovery

One size does not fit all in addiction recovery. Though everyone suffering from a substance abuse disorder can get better, there isn’t a single path that will lead all of us to a lasting solution. The good news is that there are many treatment options available to match the unique needs of each individual.

Some will benefit from medication-assisted treatment, a program in which prescribed and monitored medications help mitigate symptoms and discourage relapse. For many, a period of 24/7 residential care provides the opportunity to focus solely on recovery while taking a break from life’s other responsibilities. There are also special treatment options geared toward specific groups of people such as teens, college students, parents, or military vets.

Therapies, too, can be tailored to meet participants’ emotional needs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of talk-therapy used very commonly in substance abuse treatment programs, but not everyone is ready to access it immediately. Fortunately, many addiction counselors have another effective tool available. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of therapy that was developed to help people who have trouble with emotional regulation, those who exhibit self-destructive behaviors, or those who lack the capacity to participate in other treatments in a meaningful way. DBT offers hope for people with a dual diagnosis and those who have tried addiction therapy in the past and relapsed.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

DBT was developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, author of the book “Building a Life Worth Living: A Memoir.” In her work with clients with severe or multiple psychosocial disorders, she realized that in order to make progress, they had to both develop acceptance and embrace change. The term dialectics refers to the process of balancing two seemingly opposing forces, in this case, acceptance and change. Though they seem like opposites, both things may simultaneously be true and both are necessary for meaningful recovery to occur. The synthesis of these two forces is also foundational in 12-Step programs.

DBT is especially beneficial for treating borderline personality disorder, for people who are suicidal, and in the treatment of substance use disorders. When DBT is used to treat addiction, the therapist helps clients find a balance and integrate these seemingly opposing ideas in order to heal and experience growth.

Based on scientific research, the practice of DBT is constantly evolving and realigning with new evidence. This powerful therapy can:

  • Help you develop healthier ways to cope with life’s stresses
  • Help you repair relationships with loved ones
  • Help you learn to better regulate your emotions
  • Teach you life skills that will be useful as you negotiate your recovery path

Why Use Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction?

As part of a comprehensive treatment program for addiction, DBT participants receive individual and group counseling, as well as addiction education. Though DBT was initially developed as a therapeutic approach for individuals unable to access CBT due to suicidal ideation or borderline personality disorder, it has become a tool that makes a difference for people dealing with a variety of psychological disorders, including addiction.

With the goal of “building a life worth living,” here are some of the attributes that make DBT an effective tool in addiction recovery:

DBT is Supportive

DBT is especially beneficial to those with complex or multiple psychological disorders and those suffering from severe emotional dysregulation. Participation in DBT can help you acquire the skills necessary to access other types of treatment more successfully.

DBT is Validating

In DBT, the therapist can help clients move forward by learning to understand and accept their emotions and actions as valid.

DBT is Goal-Oriented

DBT is implemented in order to impact behavioral change. Though the overall goal may be long-term sobriety, smaller incremental goals will build you to that point with confidence.

DBT is Hierarchical

In DBT, goals are hierarchical. The highest priority goal will target the most life-threatening or self-destructive behaviors. Secondary goals will decrease behaviors that interfere with therapy. Additional goals then target improving the person’s quality of life. Multiple goals may be in progress simultaneously, however, priorities are emphasized.

DBT is Skills-Based

DBT helps participants develop core skills to support them through their recovery. Mindfulness and distress tolerance promotes acceptance, while emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness supports change. Learning to be mindful helps you separate thoughts from emotions, and practicing distress tolerance helps you avoid resorting to substance use as a coping strategy. Emotion regulation allows you to apply mindfulness skills to begin solving problems. Interpersonal effectiveness may improve your capacity to foster positive relationships. DBT Diary Cards are a tool that may be used to track progress toward skill development. Together, these skills may help you avoid relapse and increase your chances of long-term success.

Promoting Successful Recovery with DBT

There are many options for substance abuse rehab, and finding the right treatment program promotes a greater chance of success in your addiction recovery. A treatment center that provides a comprehensive continuum of care and offers each participant an individualized treatment path can accommodate a wider range of personal needs. By including DBT in a rehab program, addiction counselors can promote positive outcomes for those suffering dual diagnoses and those who have been unsuccessful with other evidence-based therapies. Having this powerful tool in their toolbox may mean success for a larger group of individuals, and it may hold the difference for you.

If you would like more information on the use of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for addiction treatment, reach out to the admissions counselors at New Choices Treatment Centers. Within the context of a comprehensive rehab program, DBT can help you find your footing on the path to addiction recovery. Call us at (726) 888-7003.