Author: John Carter

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy DBT?

dbt for substance abuse

Individuals who regulate their thoughts and feelings during tough times often make wise choices. Others react to highly stressfulsituations in a hostile manner, which may lead to regrettable decisions. Distress tolerance teaches people to make sounddecisions in difficult moments. Mindfulness is a mental state characterized by being aware and accepting of the present moment, including our thoughts, feelingsand environment. Each group session lasts around two hours, and groups usually meet weekly for about six months.

DBT equips individuals with strategies to identify and regulate their emotions effectively. This leads to a reduction in impulsive behaviors and a greater ability to manage stress without relying on substances. This treatment method works for peoplesuffering from eating disorders as well. A 2001 study found that DBT significantly decreasedsymptoms of bulimia among women.

dbt for substance abuse

Dialectical behavior therapy incorporates four skills intended to help people overcome their distressing thoughts and unhealthybehaviors. Each set of skills has its own unique characteristics that help clients better understand their emotions. After developing DBT, Linehan led a study to determine whether the approach was effective in treating women battling borderlinepersonality disorder anddrug dependence. Nanci Stockwell of Advanced Recovery Systems describes dialectical behavioral therapy and the skills that are developed during DBT. Because dialectical behavioral therapy can be helpful for a variety of psychiatric conditions, it is often offered as a component of dual diagnosis programs. Dialectical behavioral therapy is an acceptance-based counseling approach that can be helpful for people who have not benefited from other therapeutic modalities.

In this stage, people practice experiencing emotions fully without using substances to cope. Improving interpersonal effectiveness involves constructively handling interpersonal conflicts. It’s about recognizing the need to stop unnecessary apologies and advocating for yourself while possessing essential social skills. This skill helps you regain control over a stressful situation or deal with painful emotions.

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For example, if you’re struggling with opioid addiction, you may take maintenance medications rather than adhere to complete abstinence from all substances. Dr. Jill Emanuele, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, said DBT for teens focuses on eating properly, gettingenough sleep, taking medications and avoiding substance use. A study published in the journal Behavior Therapy studied the efficacy of DBT in women veterans with borderline personalitydisorder. Researchers found DBT to be effective in reducing thoughts of hopelessness, depression and angry outbursts.

  1. The report, published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health, used DBT on children aged 8 to 11 who experiencedsymptoms of depression,anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
  2. Researchers combined elements of acceptance and change to create dialectical strategies, which helped therapy sessions runmore smoothly.
  3. Traditional treatment methods have proven to be effective for many, but there is a growing recognition of the need for alternative approaches to address the complex nature of substance abuse disorders.
  4. Emotional dysregulation is the inability to control one’s emotions and can contribute to substance abuse.

It encourages you to acknowledge unwanted thoughts and behaviors without judgement. DBT-SUD is a modified version of dialectical behavior therapy that incorporates substance abuse prevention strategies tohelp individuals overcome addiction. Through this approach, therapists use problem-solving techniques to discuss theimportance of harm reduction and a realistic approach to relapse avoidance.

“Dialectical behavior therapy may offer promise as an approach to the psychosocial treatment of adolescent bipolar disorder,”the study authors concluded. In response, therapists help clients increaseself-respect and self-esteem, identify life goals and recognize a normal balance of happiness and unhappiness. In the 1970s, Dr. Marsha Linehan developed DBT after she attempted to use CBT to treat adult women who had battled suicidalideation, suicide attempts and self-harm.

The main goal of DBT is to help people learn healthier ways to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Using psychotherapy and skills-based training, dialectical behavior therapy teaches how to control impulses, regulate emotions, and develop coping skills for stress. Emotional dysregulation is a common challenge for individuals with substance abuse disorders. By learning to identify triggers, challenge negative thoughts, and practice opposite actions, individuals can develop healthier emotional responses and reduce the reliance on substances for emotional regulation. People who have borderline personality disorder or eating disorders are at higher risk of having co-occurring substance use disorders. Using DBT alongside other substance abuse treatments can help a wider range of people who struggle with drugs or alcohol.

Online Therapy Can Help

Individuals also learn self-validation techniques and how tomaintain focus and control emotional stress. Stage one is designed to help people overcome these behaviors and achieve stability. Through this stage, clients learn to increase their ability to manage stress and effectivelyinteract with others. Researchers concluded that DBT-SUD has shown promise in treating drug disorders among women with borderline personality disorder,and it may be helpful in treating other drug-using populations.

Health care professionals often use individual therapy, group skills training, weekly consultation team meetings and familytherapy when treating teens with DBT. This allows parents and adolescents to learn together and share feedback.Teens also are encouraged to call their therapists when in crisis. A 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry tested DBT methods on adolescentswithbipolar disorder. At the conclusion of therapy, patients saw a decreasein self-injurious behavior, suicidality and symptoms ofdepression. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics tested the effectiveness of DBT-PTSD in treating peoplewith borderline personality disorder and PTSD caused by childhood sexual abuse. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches clients to deal with others in healthy, effective ways.

dbt for substance abuse

There is help available to you if you or a loved one has a physical dependence or psychological dependence on a behavior or substance. These urges and compulsive behaviors can control your life, but you can take back control. Relay’s addiction recovery program provides a comprehensive, outpatient approach to behavioral change – at home, at your own pace. Try the Relay program for free here; if you need help as you get set up, contact us now at

DBT uses elements of mindfulnessto help these individuals develop emotional regulation and distress tolerance. Researchers found that DBT clients showedreduced substance abuse, and they were more likely to continue therapy than those in traditional treatment. Contact us today online or by phone to find effective substance abuse that offers dialectical behavioral therapy along with other evidence-based treatment services.

The Effectiveness of DBT for Co-Occurring Disorders

Addressing all co-occurring disorders simultaneously is important for long-term recovery. Group therapy is a core component of substance abuse treatment, so dialectical behavior therapy for addiction often occurs in a setting with peers going through similar challenges. A group therapy leader may use DBT techniques to develop interpersonal skills and help members manage distress. Group sessions can serve as a safe space to discuss problems and ways to deal with these challenges. If you’re recovering from substance abuse, dialectical behavior therapy for addiction can be useful in triggering situations. By reducing anxiety and managing emotions that can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, you are better able to resist substances.

What Does Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Treat?

Groups can be shorter or longer, depending on the requirements of the members. People use these breathing techniques to slow down the situation and separate their thoughts from their emotions. All Addiction Resource content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible. Within a group setting, a therapist will use DBT-based activities, such as journaling or worksheets.

Traditional treatment methods have proven to be effective for many, but there is a growing recognition of the need for alternative approaches to address the complex nature of substance abuse disorders. One such approach that has gained significant attention and success is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the principles, components, and effectiveness of DBT for substance abuse. Many independent therapists, organizations and institutions in the United States use dialectical behavior therapy to treatteens and adults with borderline personality disorder. The Linehan Institute offers workshops, books and webinars designedto teach people more about DBT. Over the years, several studies have tested thistherapy approach on people with such behaviors.