Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used in addiction treatment emphasizing the psychosocial aspects of substance abuse. With a focus on helping addicts to cope with social and emotional issues contributing to and stemming from addiction, including triggers and negative thought patterns and emotions, DBT is suitable for individuals who are recovering from addiction as well as for those with deeper co-occurring problems relating to anxiety, depression, and trauma.

DBT fights addiction by helping users to build coping mechanisms for social and emotional problems, negative emotions, and stress, allowing them to cope in healthier ways.

How Does DBT Work?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy approaches addiction and patterns of behavior with the idea that many people understand concepts through their opposites. Dialectics are concepts that are difficult to define on their own, but can be defined by their opposite. For example, black and white, courage and cowardice, inhibition and wantonness, self-esteem or ego and the lack of it, etc. Many of these concepts cannot be fully defined without using their opposite or the absence of the concept to contrast it. This ties into the mindset of addiction, where users often self-medicate or try to escape from problems and stress via substance use.

DBT helps users understand and cope with the emotional and social reasons they may be addicted. By approaching why patients respond in a certain way to actions or emotions gives them the tools to build new reactions and behaviors in response to those emotions.

Components of DBT

DBT includes four components:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Therapists work with the patient in 60-minute sessions, helping the patient to learn their emotional responses, identify self-destructive behavior, and identify where responses come from and why.

  • Group
  • Group sessions typically include two and a half hour classes, where people with similar destructive behaviors learn correcting skills and coping mechanisms in a class environment. In most cases, group therapy sessions take place over 24 weeks, with four or six sessions devoted to each skill.

  • Coaching
  • Patients receive consistent support throughout the process, interacting with therapists in person.

  • Remote Coaching
  • Patients can call their therapist at any time to discuss issues they are having.

    DBT also integrates other forms of treatment including mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation.

    DBT for Addiction Treatment with Dual Diagnosis

    DBT is specifically designed to work for patients who have problems stemming from depression, anxiety, or other disorders. DBT therapists create a prioritization schedule for each patient, tackling the most urgent and dangerous problems first so that the patient can recover more effectively. This usually means that life threatening behaviors such as relapse and potential overdose, potential suicide, etc., are addressed first. Afterwards, therapy-interference behaviors such as aggression, anger, lack of motivation, depression, major anxiety, and other emotions that interfere with therapy are approached. From there, DBT shifts focus to improve the patient’s quality of life and build skills that help the patient to overcome their problems and build a better life.

    As a result, DBT is generally considered more effective than CBT when treating patients with co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety.

    While DBT is a form of CBT, it is more focused on managing social behavior and emotions, making it an effective tool for treating users with trauma, anxiety, and depression. With a more intense treatment schedule combining one-on-one therapy with group therapy, DBT offers more support, follow-up, and customization than most alternatives.

    If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, Nova Vitae Treatment Center can help. Call us today at (818) 824-6839 for a free consultation.