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In the field of treating addiction, alcoholism and mental health conditions there are many therapeutic approaches also knows as evidence-based modalities. In this particular post we are going to discuss Dialectical Behavior Therapy. You will learn what it is, how it works, the goals of DBT and how it is being utilized in addiction and mental health treatment.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT evolved from Marsha Linehan’s efforts to create a treatment for multiproblematic, suicidal women. Linehan combed through the literature on efficacious psychosocial treatments for other disorders, such as anxiety disorders, depression, and other emotion-related difficulties, and assembled a package of evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral interventions that directly targeted suicidal behavior. Initially, these interventions were so focused on changing cognitions and behaviors that many patients felt criticized, misunderstood, and invalidated, and consequently dropped out of treatment altogether.

Through an interplay of science and practice, clinical experiences with multiproblematic, suicidal patients sparked further research and treatment development. Most notably, Linehan weaved into the treatment interventions designed to convey acceptance of the patient and to help the patient accept herself, her emotions, thoughts, the world, and others. As such, DBT came to rest on a foundation of dialectical philosophy, whereby therapists strive to continually balance and synthesize acceptance and change-oriented strategies.

Ultimately, this work culminated in a comprehensive, evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral treatment for borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and various other conditions.

How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

One of the key components of DBT is its focus on dialectics, which is the idea that two seemingly conflicting ideas can both be true at the same time. For example, a person may want to change their behavior while also accepting themselves as they are. DBT helps individuals learn how to hold these opposing viewpoints and find a balance between them. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who struggle with black-and-white thinking or have difficulty tolerating distress.

Another important aspect of DBT is its emphasis on mindfulness, which involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness skills are taught in DBT to help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By practicing mindfulness, individuals can learn to observe their experiences without getting overwhelmed by them, which can help them make more intentional choices about how to respond.

DBT also teaches individuals specific skills to help them regulate their emotions, communicate effectively, and cope with stress. These skills include techniques for distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness. By learning and practicing these skills, individuals can develop healthier ways of coping with challenging situations and improve their overall well-being.

For example, someone struggling with depression may learn how to identify and challenge negative thought patterns using cognitive-behavioral techniques. They may also learn how to use mindfulness to stay present and focused on the moment, rather than getting caught up in rumination about the past or worry about the future. By developing these skills, individuals can build resilience and improve their ability to manage their emotions and behaviors.

Goals of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

One of the key goals of DBT is to teach individuals how to regulate their emotions. Many individuals struggling with mental health issues such as BPD experience intense and overwhelming emotions that can be difficult to manage. DBT teaches skills such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance to help individuals better cope with their emotions. For example, someone struggling with anger may learn techniques to calm themselves down and respond more effectively in challenging situations.

Another goal of DBT is to improve relationships. Individuals with mental health issues often struggle in their relationships with others due to difficulties with communication, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills. DBT helps individuals learn how to effectively communicate their needs and boundaries, listen to others, and build healthy relationships. By improving their relationships, individuals can experience greater social support and a sense of connection with others.

Finally, the goal of DBT is to help individuals build a life worth living. Many individuals struggling with mental health issues may feel hopeless, disconnected, or stuck in destructive patterns of behavior. DBT helps individuals identify their values, set goals, and take steps towards creating a life that is meaningful and fulfilling. By focusing on building a life worth living, individuals can experience a sense of purpose and satisfaction in their lives.

Utilizing Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

DBT is a form of therapy that focuses on helping individuals learn new skills to manage their emotions, improve their relationships, and cope with distress in a healthy way. It combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness techniques, emphasizing the importance of validation and acceptance. In addiction and mental health treatment, DBT has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms and improving overall well-being.

One of the key principles of DBT is the concept of dialectics, which involves finding a balance between acceptance and change. This is particularly important in addiction treatment, where individuals often struggle with ambivalence about their substance use. By helping clients accept their current circumstances while also encouraging change, DBT can help them overcome their addiction.

DBT also teaches individuals important skills such as emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills are particularly valuable in mental health treatment, where individuals may struggle with mood swings, impulsive behavior, and difficulty in relationships. By learning how to manage their emotions and communicate effectively, clients can improve their mental health and overall quality of life.

Furthermore, DBT places a strong emphasis on mindfulness, which involves being present in the moment and nonjudgmentally observing one’s thoughts and feelings. This can be particularly helpful in addiction treatment, where individuals may use substances to avoid unpleasant emotions. By learning how to be mindful and tolerate distress, clients can reduce their reliance on substances and develop healthier coping strategies.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Action

For example, a client struggling with both addiction and depression may benefit from DBT by learning how to regulate their emotions and cope with negative thoughts. By practicing mindfulness techniques and developing healthy coping skills, the client can reduce their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.

Similarly, a client with a history of trauma may benefit from DBT by learning how to tolerate distress and build healthier relationships. By developing interpersonal effectiveness skills and addressing underlying trauma, the client can improve their mental health and reduce their risk of relapse.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based approach that can be highly effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions. By combining elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectics, mindfulness, and acceptance strategies, DBT helps individuals develop the skills they need to manage their emotions, improve their relationships, and create a more fulfilling life. With its focus on balance, mindfulness, and skill-building, DBT offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to mental health treatment that can empower individuals to make positive changes and live their lives more fully.

If you or someone you know is looking for help with substance abuse or mental health treatment, contact TRUE Addiction and Behavioral Health. Our experienced team of clinicians and therapists provide you with the help and support you need to live a happy and successful life.