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Drug and alcohol treatment often calls for a variety of approaches to achieve success. What works for one person may not be recommended for another. Because of this, treatment programs work closely with clients to identify the best treatment plan for their situation. One such approach often used is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
For many individuals seeking treatment, DBT is a central part of their recovery. This multidimensional treatment approach aligns well with the needs of people in recovery. Self-awareness, acceptance, and emotional regulation — which are all significant elements within DBT — are also pivotal concepts necessary for combating addiction.
DBT is a form of talk therapy based on evidence that can help individuals on the path to recovery. Developed in the 1980s by psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan, this therapy is based on a more widely used type of treatment called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Though utilized for many of the same conditions, DBT and CBT have a few significant differences.
CBT encourages individuals to focus on talking about their problems and reframing their thoughts. By embracing how thoughts, behavior, and feelings affect each other, CBT trains individuals to identify harmful ways of thinking. Using CBT skills, individuals become more conscious of their thought patterns and can make the necessary behavioral changes.
DBT takes a similar – but different – route. Instead of reframing thoughts, dialectical behavioral therapy encourages individuals to both accept and change their thoughts and behaviors. DBT’s two opposing themes allow individuals to accept themselves and the world around them, yet also promote incentives to change.
Dialectical behavior therapy includes four principles that help individuals manage distressing emotions and curb harmful behaviors. These core skills allow for improved problem-solving, healthier relationships, and overall personal growth.
The four core principles of this therapy are:
These four core principles of DBT emphasize the interconnectedness of the world and a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This therapy embraces this connection, focusing on how opposites can be linked, bringing individuals closer to healing and the truth.
Both inpatient and outpatient settings are conducive to DBT skills training. Depending on the client’s needs, treatments may include:
The skills-training component of DBT involves the four core principles. DBT involves building confidence and acceptance through role-playing and problem-solving practice. Individual meetings with therapists explore thoughts and behaviors regarding relationships, boundaries, and past traumas. In some cases, DBT combines other therapies like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and traditional CBT.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), DBT was primarily utilized to initially treat borderline personality disorder or BPD. Since then, the use of this therapy has expanded to many other conditions.
DBT is beneficial for a variety of other mental health conditions, a few of which are:
Although dialectical behavioral therapy is an excellent treatment option for people with addiction, it’s also helpful for dual-diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, occurs when substance use disorders happen simultaneously as a mental illness. For example, someone diagnosed with depression and alcohol abuse has a dual diagnosis.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), about 17 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with mental health and substance use disorders in 2020. Almost 38% of people with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. This form of therapy can help people manage their substance use and mental health. Thereby improving their overall quality of life.
Mental health professionals recommend treating both conditions a the same time for cases of co-occurring disorders. Unfortunately, only 9.1% of all individuals with co-occurring disorders receive treatment for both conditions. DBT is a treatment of choice for dual-diagnosed individuals because it can successfully treat both disorders.
Though most addiction therapies have an element of self-acceptance, this therapy embraces acceptance as one of its central concepts. Through acceptance and awareness, DBT enables people with substance abuse disorders to address other recovery goals.
DBT supports addiction treatment by:
The skills learned during DBT treatment benefits individuals with substance use disorder throughout their lifetime. While change is a priority during recovery, maintaining those changes is integral for continued success. Participants learn new skills in their therapy sessions that lead to better management of intense emotions.
For example, a 2021 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy found DBT effective for marijuana cessation and reducing cravings. The study divided sixty-one participants with marijuana use disorder into two groups. One group received DBT treatment, while the other received traditional therapy treatments. Two months after therapy, the DBT group was significantly more successful with marijuana cessation and craved the drug less.
Dialectical behavioral therapy accepts that past or future events, like relapses, are part of the recovery process. Rather than punishing or judging themselves for mistakes, DBT emphasizes resilience and commitment to recovery. Therefore, problem-solving strategies and long-term commitment to recovery taught during this therapy become crucial at every recovery phase.
Turning Tides is the premier DBT center in Orange County for residential addiction services. Our facility specializes in medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, and EMDR therapy. We also utilize various evidence-based therapy approaches like CBT and DBT.
Contact us today and start your path to an addiction-free future.
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