Exploring the Use of DBT in Addiction Treatment December 5th, 2019 The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake
Blog & News Exploring the Use of DBT in Addiction Treatment

Exploring the Use of DBT in Addiction Treatment

A woman sitting with her eyes closed

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was first developed to treat borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by extreme mood swings and intense emotional responses to negative situations. It has since been used to treat other disorders, including substance use disorders, as well as the disorders that can co-occur with addiction.

DBT focuses on being aware and mindful of your inner emotions and being able to accept and tolerate them in order to regulate them. Therapy sessions focus on problem-solving situations that may have occurred since the previous session and learning techniques to better manage them. Thoughts and behaviors are the focus, and a major part of the process involves learning to think about your emotions and reactions more kindly and realistically so that you do not react so strongly to them.

First Step: Mindfulness

The first step in DBT is mindfulness, being aware of your emotions and learning to experience them. This step is important because many people find it hard to face their emotions. These individuals may find them too intense and try to escape them. Substance misuse can develop into a more severe addiction.

Building Distress Tolerance

Besides normal emotions that can cause intense reactions, times of distress can be another trigger point for substance misuse. The “I need a drink” mentality has become entrenched in society as a response to stress and negative situations, but it is possible to tolerate distress without looking to a substance to feel better. Skills taught in DBT include distracting, self-soothing, improving the moment and thinking of pros and cons. These coping skills help with the acceptance of distress and the ability to bear the pains that often come in life.

A man and woman relaxing on a couch

DBT is helpful for people who have strong emotions and need help to regulate them.

Emotional Regulation

The next step in the DBT process is learning to regulate your emotions. It is possible to teach yourself to manage problem emotions and act in healthy ways to cope with them rather than making harmful choices like self-harm or substance misuse. The use of DBT to treat mood disorders and other mental health problems can help those with strong emotional responses achieve calmness and stay in recovery for longer than those who do not participate in this type of therapy.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Like mood disorders, substance use disorders can leave a trail of strained and broken relationships in its wake. By learning how to communicate more effectively with those around you, however, you can repair and fix many of these relationships — or at least move on to better ones that will not be so easily broken. Assertiveness and respect for yourself and others are some areas emphasized in this step of DBT.

While the four parts of DBT are viewed separately in some ways, they can also be dealt with concurrently so that it does not take months or years to see progress. The emphasis is on finding solutions to problems you are experiencing so that you can handle things better going forward and feel better, too.

Colorado addiction treatment resources can help those whose emotions threaten their lives or their recovery in many cases.  Contact The Recovery Village Palmer Lake to discuss therapeutic options for addiction treatment today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.