Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

An addiction treatment program is made up of addiction treatment approaches and therapeutic methods. These methods and approaches come in many different forms, working to meet the unique needs of those in recovery. One effective form of therapy is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). DBT for substance abuse focuses on teaching patients how to accept and cope with negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that could lead them to use substances.DBT for substance abuse

To further understand dialectical behavior therapy, you need to dive deep into the different ways that it benefits those with addiction. To do this, we must first learn about the core components of DBT for addiction. In doing so, we’ll also learn about how these components affect the approaches within this type of therapy in addition to the skills that people develop in DBT. 

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that teaches rehab patients how to accept their negative thoughts and emotions. DBT does this by having addiction treatment patients use coping mechanisms to manage them. This allows patients to manage any substance use triggers or stressful situations that they experience due to negative thoughts and emotions. 

Core Components of DBT for Substance Abuse

There are four major components that all practices of DBT for substance abuse fall into. These include skills training, individual therapy, phone coaching, and team consultation. 

Skills Training

During the skills training component of DBT for substance abuse, addiction treatment patients are taught communication and coping skills. These skills will help patients abstain from using substances. DBT skills training classes occur for two hours at a time, one time per week, for around 24 weeks. 

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy is a one-on-one therapy approach. It takes place with only a therapist and an individual who is in treatment for addiction. DBT individual therapy aims to help addiction treatment patients apply the techniques that they learned during skills training.

Phone Coaching

Phone coaching is a form of telehealth therapy. Through phone coaching, DBT for substance abuse patients can speak to their therapists virtually through the phone. The purpose of phone coaching is to provide patients with access to their therapists. Whenever they’re going through a stressful situation and need immediate coaching to help them cope, recovering individuals can easily get it. 

Team Consultation

Team consultation is a tool for DBT therapists and healthcare providers to use to stay motivated. That way they can provide the best care possible. Through team consultations, DBT therapists and healthcare professionals can receive any form of support that they need to help them perform their duties.

How to Use DBT for Substance Abuse

For DBT for substance abuse to be effective, the therapist must first build a collaborative relationship with the patient. The therapist and the patient then should work together to come up with small, obtainable goals for becoming sober. For example, one goal could be to not drink or use substances for a day. If the patient sets small goals like that every day and upkeeps them all, he or she will be on his or her way to sobriety in on time. 

DBT Skills Taught During Skills Training

There are four categories of skills that DBT for addiction improves on during skills training. These include emotion regulation skills, mindfulness skills, interpersonal effectiveness skills, and distress tolerance skills.

Emotion Regulation Skills

Emotion regulation skills are skills that teach addiction treatment patients how to control, Dialectical Behavioral Therapyacknowledge, and accept their negative emotions. An addict’s emotions are a part of him or her. 

So, running from them or pretending that they don’t exist will only cause them to build inside. This, in turn, will only make individuals more susceptible to relapsing in the long-run. This is especially true since negative thoughts and emotions are often the reason why people start abusing substances in the first place. 

Through emotion regulation skills training, individuals learn how to work through their emotions in a productive way. Examples of productive ways to work through emotions include journaling, creating art, or practicing deep breathing exercises. 

Mindfulness Skills

Through mindfulness skills training, addiction treatment patients are taught how to stay in the present moment instead of overwhelming themselves with negative thoughts and emotions about the past or future. Practicing mindfulness skills will help keep addiction treatment patients calm, cool, and collected.

Interpersonal Effectiveness Skills

While going through an addiction, many struggling individuals ruin the relationships that they have with family and friends. Thus, repairing these relationships is something that DBT therapists address in skills training. By practicing interpersonal effectiveness skills, addicts learn how to better communicate and build bonds with other people. 

Distress Tolerance Skills

Through distress tolerance skills training, addiction treatment patients learn how to handle distress. One way that patients are taught to handle distress during distress tolerance skills training is by accepting the present stressful moment instead of ignoring or trying to change it. Doing so will increase an addict’s mental and emotional strength. 

Another thing that addiction treatment patients are taught during DBT distress tolerance skills training is how to overcome crisis situations. Patients are taught to do this by accessing the tools and coping mechanisms that they’ve learned in DBT for addiction. 

How Does DBT for Addiction Improve Chances of Recovery

DBT for addiction improves the chances that rehab patients have for recovery in several ways:

  • Reduces withdrawal symptoms
  • Removes triggers for drug use
  • Reduces cravings and removes temptations for relapse
  • Reinforces healthy relationships, behaviors, and environments
  • Allows the person in recovery to overcome negative thoughts and behaviors that encourage drug use

Five Goals of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy 

There are five main goals in the individual therapy component of DBT for substance use. These five goals include enhancing the patients’ capabilities, generalizing the patients’ capabilities, improving the patients’ motivations while also reducing their dysfunctional behaviors, structuring the patients’ environment, and enhancing and maintaining the capabilities and motivations of the therapists. 

Enhancing the Patients’ Capabilities 

The purpose of this goal is to improve the life skills of DBT for addiction patients. Dialectical behavioral therapy does this by providing patients with group therapy sessions and homework on top of individual therapy sessions. 

Generalizing the Patients’ Capabilities 

The purpose of this goal is to maximize the amount of coping skills that DBT for substance abuse patients master. To achieve this goal, DBT for substance abuse patients receive constant homework assignments and attend individual therapy sessions regularly. 

Improving the Patients’ Motivations and Reducing the Patients’ Dysfunctional Behaviors

The first purpose of this goal is to boost the patients’ desires to change their lives for the better. The second purpose of this goal is to eliminate negative behaviors out of patients’ lives that harm their overall well-being. 

To achieve both of these goals, DBT therapists make patients fill out diary cards with their personal treatment goals and issues. That way the therapists know what to focus on in individual therapy to inspire the patients and change their negative behaviors. 

Structuring the Patients’ Environment

To achieve this goal, the therapist and patient together come up with a plan for a home environment that will help foster healing and positivity. As time goes on, the therapist and patient will also remove any negative influences from the patient’s life.

Enhancing and Maintaining Therapist Capabilities and Motivation

The purpose of this goal is to support the DBT therapists and healthcare professionals and motivate them to continue to put out good work. The best way to do this is to provide them with skill-building and professional development. 

Benefits of DBT for Addiction

There are numerous benefits of DBT for addiction. The primary reason why this therapy is beneficial for addiction is that it targets the harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that addicts exhibit, thus getting to the root of their addiction issues. DBT for addiction is also beneficial because it teaches recovering addicts how to accept and cope with their negative emotions without falling to them. 

DBT for substance abuse teaches people many positive behaviors and coping mechanisms. It teaches individuals how to:

  • Avoid substance use triggers and cues 
  • Reduce cravings and urges for substances
  • Decrease and ultimately stop substance use
  • Alleviate physical discomfort that’s associated with withdrawals
  • Reduce negative behaviors that are conducive to substance use
  • Establish a community and environment that reinforces positive behaviors

DBT for Addiction Treatment

DBT for substance use is beneficial for inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. Since this type of therapy simultaneously helps people deal with their addiction and emotional issues, it’s also a great tool to use in dual diagnosis treatment

Dialectical behavior therapy is even effective when combined with other forms of motivational therapies. For example, DBT for substance use works well with cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management therapy, and community reinforcement therapy. 

Silver Linings Recovery Can Provide You With The Exact Addiction Treatment Program That You Need

At Silver Linings Recovery, we provide a wide variety of addiction therapy services, including DBT for substance abuse. We also provide a wide variety of addiction treatment programs. Therefore, whether you’re looking to attend DBT for addiction while attending inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, dual diagnosis treatment, or something else, you can do it here at Silver Linings. 

To learn more about Silver Linings Recovery Center and the addiction treatment and therapy services that we offer, contact us today.


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