Overcoming a mental illness and/or substance use disorder (SUD) is no easy task. With treatment becoming more widely available, individuals may become overwhelmed by the number of treatment options available. Every treatment intervention offers unique benefits for healing and recovery. Becoming educated on various modalities can increase personal agency. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one well-researched intervention that has proven its effectiveness in treating a wide range of symptoms and disorders, including addiction.
Content warning: This blog discusses suicidal ideation and self-harm behaviors. If you or someone you love is experiencing these issues, call the National Crisis Hotline at 988.
According to Psychiatry (Edgmont), DBT is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment originally developed to help individuals overcome suicidal ideation and behaviors. The creator, Marsha Linehan, combined efforts of psychosocial treatments and cognitive-behavioral interventions to help clients challenge intrusive patterns of thought and behavior. A specific element that sets this modality apart from other cognitive-behavioral treatments is its emphasis on mindfulness strategies, including acceptance.
To better understand DBT, it can be broken down into two central ideas: dialectical and behavior therapy. Let’s discuss these in further detail.
The term “dialectical” derives from the root word “dialectics”, which is a form of thinking that views an idea through multiple different perspectives. It’s a more nuanced way of thinking. Examples of dialectical statements include:
DBT treatments help clients honor this style of thinking. It reduces absolute, or black-and-white, thought patterns. Rather, it encourages people to hold seemingly-contradictory thoughts and emotions at once.
The second idea of DBT focuses on behavior change. Behavior therapy sheds light on how behaviors are learned and altered. While psychotherapies focus on talking through past trauma to overcome it, behavior therapies require clients to utilize new coping strategies in the present moment to overcome problematic behaviors.
In DBT sessions, clients certainly can talk through problematic thoughts and behaviors. However, DBT practitioners help clients to accept their feelings of stress or overwhelm. In turn, a DBT practitioner will work with a client to address problematic behavior patterns. Together, the client and practitioner create measurable and obtainable goals to reduce stressful emotions as effectively as possible.
DBT is most commonly used to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) and the symptoms that accompany it. However, an article in The Mental Health Clinician discusses the effectiveness beyond BPD and associated suicidal symptoms. They noted that DBT can be used to treat a variety of disorders, including:
DBT can also treat problematic and distressing symptoms that exist outside a diagnosis. It has shown its effectiveness for those who struggle with:
For those wondering if DBT could benefit their recovery from SUD or other mental health disorders, it can be helpful to learn some of the benefits of DBT.
One important benefit of DBT is that it can help improve interpersonal relationships. In sessions, individuals learn how to identify different perspectives and experiences, rather than solely relying on their subjective perspectives. Likewise, DBT emphasizes the value that social support plays for an individual’s well-being. This modality can also help people learn how to create healthy relationships and set boundaries.
Another benefit of DBT is that it can help prevent relapse in individuals working to overcome substance abuse and addiction. Individuals in recovery will have to face many obstacles. SUD triggers can create intrusive thoughts. People must learn how to navigate them healthily. DBT techniques allow individuals to accept intrusive thoughts without giving in to them. It can also encourage those in recovery to hold themselves accountable for their recovery goals throughout their sobriety.
The use of DBT can also improve quality of life by encouraging individuals to make lifestyle changes. Ideally, these support their personal, long-term values. Additionally, people can learn to accept and recognize that mental health challenges are an inevitable part of life. This treatment approach allows individuals to move forward despite any difficult circumstances that may arise.
All in all, DBT is an intentional and valuable treatment intervention that can help individuals overcome a range of disorders and symptoms. A medical team can always help someone determine if DBT will be a good fit for them.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment intervention that can be used to help address a variety of problematic symptoms and mental health conditions. At Sage Recovery, we understand how important it is to utilize evidence-based interventions throughout one’s treatment and recovery journey. However, we also encourage the use of holistic therapies to complement the traditional therapeutic process. We offer programs for adolescents and adults struggling with addiction and other mental health disorders. Our holistic approach helps address all aspects of your well-being. With the help of our team, you can establish long-lasting recovery. To learn more about how we can help you, give us a call today at (512) 306-1394.