Discover how dialectical behavior therapy can improve mental health and help treat addiction in this comprehensive article.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is an evidence-based treatment that helps people manage emotions and stress. DBT is a talk therapy specially adapted for people who feel intense feelings to help them accept their emotions, develop new skills to manage them, and improve their quality of life.
An essential part of DBT therapy is the practice and mastery of DBT skills, such as mindfulness, to help reduce harmful behaviors and improve mental health.
The term “dialectics” is based on the premise that everything is made up of opposites and dialogue between opposing ends (acceptance and change in the case of DBT) can bring fruitful results. Three assumptions can be deduced from the dialectics theory:
The information above forms the basics of DBT. If you understand dialectics, you can begin to recognize that there are multiple solutions to a given issue and that two seemingly incompatible ideas can coexist.
Dialectical thinking involves saying things like, “I messed up, and I can try to make things better” rather than “I messed up, but I can try to make things better.” It involves integrating opposites to make a change.
Marsha Linehan worked to develop dialectical behavior therapy in the late 1970s as a treatment for multiproblematic, suicidal women.
Linehan introduced a treatment approach intended to convey the patient’s acceptance and help them accept their emotions and the world. As a result, DBT was built on the basis of dialectical theory, where therapists constantly work to balance and combine change and acceptance-focused techniques.
According to the DBT Biosocial Theory, some people are genetically predisposed to feel things more intensely than others.
To break it down, we have the bio and the social. It would be rational to assume the emergence of maladaptive behavioral patterns when pairing biological vulnerabilities with invalidating social situations.
For DBT to be comprehensive, it must adhere to five fundamental functions. These include:
While DBT is a type of CBT, a proper understanding of both behavioral therapies will uncover some differences. The primary distinction is that dialectical behavior therapy emphasizes balance and the interplay between acceptance and change (dialectics), while cognitive behavioral therapy emphasizes harmful thought patterns and their redirection. We can further bolster the distinctions between CBT and DBT in the two headings below:
DBT includes a skills training group. One of the most important components of DBT is learning about and practicing each dialectical behavior therapy skill in a skills group while discussing scenarios with other group members.
Therapists can employ several DBT techniques and components based on each patient’s needs and ability to apply them. These techniques or DBT skills are taught in therapy for clients to practice and master to improve their quality of life.
The four main dialectical behavior therapy techniques will be detailed below.
Mindfulness is one of the major DBT skills people develop from DBT therapy. Mindfulness involves focusing on the present and what is happening internally (within the self) and externally (within the surrounding environment) in a non-judgmental way.
When experiencing emotional distress, mindfulness skills can help people slow down and concentrate on employing appropriate coping mechanisms.
Unfortunately, distress is inevitable in life. Nonetheless, DBT teaches patients how to accept their current situation through distraction, self-soothing, and coping techniques.
People can deal with intense emotions more successfully if they have good emotion control. The ability to recognize, name, and modify emotions will be aided by the abilities acquired in DBT therapy.
Interpersonal effectiveness can be defined as maintaining a healthy relationship and still being able to articulate demands and say no when necessary. This skill helps people listen, respect, understand, and communicate with others more.
Generally, DBT can be effective for the following disorders:
Self-destructive behaviors and dysfunctional emotions typically fuel addiction. Consequently, the instability caused by long-term drug or alcohol use can worsen these behaviors.
Participating in dialectical behavior therapy and mastery of dialectical behavior therapy skills will help clients manage their emotions and cope with life stressors in a way that contributes to healthy living. One study found that DBT significantly reduced drug use, had greater retention rates, and resulted in better global and social adjustment compared to TAU.4
The scope of DBT in addiction treatment includes:
If you or your loved one is ready to pursue treatment opportunities, such as DBT, we are ready to help guide you. At San Diego Detox, your health, wellness, and long-term sobriety is our top priority. Don’t hesitate to reach out today and begin healing.