Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Right for You?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Marsha Linehan, a renowned psychologist at the University of Washington. After experiencing a sense of disappointment from traditional methods of therapy, she developed DBT and later contoured the program to fit an addiction model. With most modern rehab centers accepting and embracing alternative treatment modalities, DBT has grown to be a popular form of alternative addiction therapy.

When treating co-occurring drug addiction and mental health concerns, this particular form of therapy generally outperforms traditional group therapy.

According to a study published in the journal Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, dialectical behavior therapy can help addicts experience feelings of acceptance, while also prompting them to make positive individual changes. A relatively new treatment method in the world of substance abuse, DBT has shown a lot of promise. When treating co-occurring drug addiction and mental health concerns, this particular form of therapy generally outperforms traditional group therapy. For example, dialectical behavior therapy helps addicts deal with and work through complicated emotions without putting them “on the spot” in a group setting.

DBT for Treating Drug Addiction

While receiving inpatient treatment, an addict’s one-on-one therapist will also serve as the primary DBT treatment provider. A successful treatment plan achieves five essential functions:

  • Improving patient motivation to change
  • Reducing behaviors conducive to drug abuse
  • Avoiding opportunities and triggers of drug abuse
  • Increasing community reinforcement of healthy behaviors
  • Structuring a healthy home environment

DBT combines a classroom/group environment with individual therapy sessions. These settings work together to help the patient feel more at ease with the treatment process as a whole. DBT provides life skills that help addicts achieve sobriety and get through difficult life moments without reaching for drugs. The concepts and modalities of DBT are also designed to reduce the length and adverse impact of relapses.

Is DBT Right for You?

Targeted dialectical behavior therapy programs work especially well if patients identify with one or more of the following circumstances:

  • Instances of trauma, abuse or loss in life
  • Traditional therapy produced limited success
  • Diagnosed with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders
  • Suffers from bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, PTSD or borderline personality disorder
  • Struggles with self-injury, self-harm or low self-esteem
  • Child of an alcoholic or drug addict
  • Suffered abuse or trauma as a young person
  • Serious difficulties coping with emotions

What Constitutes Success?

When dialectical behavior therapy is successful, an addict learns to envision, articulate, pursue, and sustain a unique set of goals that are independent of his or her past out-of-control behaviors related to substance abuse. In short, DBT supports sobriety and abstinence by promoting and empowering an addict to make positive changes.

Related: Cue Exposure Therapy – What the Future Holds

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