Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), was developed by the Linehan Institute to treat chronically suicidal individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD). This treatment is now widely accepted as the standard psychological treatment for this population, as well as other mental health conditions, such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and more.

At its core, DBT combines elements of CBT with mindfulness practices. The idea behind DBT is to find a balance between acceptance and change. People often struggle with the tension between accepting themselves and striving to make positive changes in their lives. For many clients, DBT helps clients establish a life worth living.

5 Goals of DBT

Improve Emotional Regulation

Many individuals struggle with overwhelming emotions. DBT helps individuals understand and manage their emotions, reducing impulsive reactions and emotional crises.

Develop Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment without judgment. DBT emphasizes mindfulness as a way to reduce suffering and increase self-awareness.

Achieve a Sense of Self-Respect

DBT helps individuals learn to value themselves and their emotions, paving the way for personal growth and self-compassion.

Enhance Interpersonal Skills

Healthy relationships are essential for a fulfilling life. DBT teaches communication skills, empathy, and ways to build and maintain positive connections.

Increase Distress Tolerance

Life can be challenging, and DBT equips individuals with strategies to handle distressing situations without resorting to harmful behaviors like substance abuse.

Benefits of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

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Enhanced Emotional Control

DBT equips individuals with practical skills to manage intense emotions, reducing impulsive and self-destructive behaviors.

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Improved Relationships

By learning effective communication and interpersonal skills, individuals can build healthier, more satisfying connections.

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Reduced Self-Harm

DBT has been proven effective in reducing self-harming behaviors such as cutting or burning.

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Decreased Substance Abuse

For those struggling with addiction, DBT can be a critical component of recovery, helping individuals resist the urge to use substances as a coping mechanism.

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Less Frequent Hospitalizations

Individuals undergoing DBT often experience fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to improved emotional regulation.
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Greater Quality of Life

With DBT, people can develop a stronger sense of self-worth and work toward their personal goals, leading to a more satisfying life.

How is DBT Used in Addiction and 
Mental Health Treatment?

DBT is a versatile therapy that can be tailored to fit the specific needs of each individual. It is typically delivered through one-on-one therapy sessions, group therapy, or a combination of both. This therapy can also be combined with other treatment approaches as a part of an individualized treatment plan. Here are some ways that DBT is used in addiction and mental health treatment:

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Individual Therapy

A therapist works closely with the client in individual sessions to address their unique challenges and goals. Together, they develop coping strategies, set achievable objectives, and monitor progress.

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Group Therapy

Group therapy sessions provide a supportive environment where individuals can practice their newly acquired skills. Participants share their experiences, learn from others, and receive feedback and guidance from the therapist.

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Homework Assignments

DBT often includes homework assignments to reinforce what’s learned in therapy. These assignments help individuals practice their skills and apply them in real-life situations.

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Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is a key component of DBT. Individuals are encouraged to practice mindfulness regularly, helping them become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and reactions.

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Treatment of Co-occurring Disorders

For individuals dealing with both addiction and mental health issues, DBT can be integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan. It addresses both the addiction itself and the underlying emotional challenges.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) offers a practical and empathetic approach to improving emotional regulation, enhancing interpersonal relationships, and addressing a wide range of mental health disorders and addiction disorders. Its emphasis on balance between acceptance and change and its proven benefits make DBT a valuable tool for individuals seeking to live healthier, more fulfilling lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with emotional challenges, addiction, or mental health issues, consider reaching out to Steps to Recovery. DBT, combined with other treatment methods, can provide the skills and support needed to navigate life’s challenges and create lasting positive change.
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