Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an effective combination of cognitive and behavioral therapies. The goal of DBT is to transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors into positive outcomes. The effectiveness of DBT has been shown to help people diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder regulate their emotions, build self-management skills, reduce anxiety and stress, and control destructive behaviors that typically end in using. DBT is a researched-based way to establish coping mechanisms to implement in environments that may elicit old, destructive patterns of abusing drugs and alcohol.
DBT started at The Linehan Institute, founded by Dr. Marsha Linehan, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. The Institute conducts cutting edge research on DBT and found that DBT was originally effective for people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT proved to help people experiencing severe suicidal thoughts and difficulty managing emotions. The success of DBT on the BPD population has led to its ongoing research and success with people suffering from addiction. This is due to the fact that DBT helps patients establish coping mechanisms to reduce anxiety in situations and environments that elicit the stress response associated with using. Anxiety levels increase when people recovering from a drug and or alcohol addiction are put in environments that trigger old responses. DBT can help to shift negative and impulsive thinking into positive self-talk and mindful behaviors to combat using.
Individuals have the opportunity to examine a deeper meaning of their lives through the DBT process of recovery. They will set goals for themselves, incorporate activities they enjoy, and mindfully understand their process of struggle. Therapists work alongside individuals to empathize with their journey and to ensure self-compassion and mindfulness are a part of the recovery process. A positive self-identity is created in these sessions in which the person establishes self-compassion, acceptance, and an increased sense of self-worth and purpose. The skills learned from DBT can easily be incorporated into a person’s everyday routine. The individual learns the deeper meaning and purpose behind each skill. The person has the understanding that these skills are essential for self-growth and a healthful human being.
The following skills learned in DBT will help the individuals redefine their identity and lead a more healthful life:
- Mindfulness: DBT helps individuals establish techniques for mindful living, and acceptance of the present moment. Patients will keep a diary and reflect on their moments of difficulty and success on their journey.
- Distress Tolerance: Individuals will learn how to cope with situations that cause stress and anxiety by reframing their thoughts, implementing self-soothing techniques, and understanding the present moment.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: DBT helps individuals learn how to establish what they want and how to assess their needs while maintaining self-respect and healthy relationships with others.
- Emotional Regulation: DBT seeks to aid individuals in how to understand, adapt, and change their emotions to improve their mindset and take positive actions.