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What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a well-established psychotherapy treatment for individuals with multiple and severe psychological disorders—including individuals who are chronically suicidal. It was also first developed to help those patients with borderline personality disorder and suicidal thoughts. Developed by co-author Dr. Marsha M. Linehan, DBT’s ultimate goal is to assist patients in their efforts to build a life worth living.
Patients who suffer from certain mental illnesses are usually more prone to expressing intense emotional outbursts and may use substances as a form of self-medication. A successful outcome of DBT is when the patient learns to envision, articulate, pursue, and sustain goals, independent of their history. This includes their uncontrollable behavior, including substance abuse, and helps them better able to cope with life’s stresses.
The authors developed the program that incorporates concepts and modalities designed to promote abstinence, thus helping to reduce the length and negative impact on relapses.
DBT and Addiction Treatment
DBT Therapies and Techniques
DBT typically has four core components, including:
- Skills training – Group leaders teach ways of communicating and coping skills that include mindfulness, emotional regulation, and distress tolerance. Patients can apply these skills to their daily routines and interactions. The classes usually last about two hours, meeting every week, for about twenty-four weeks.
- Individual therapy – Participating in individual therapy helps to recover addicts learn to apply the techniques taught in skills training classes in real-life situations. These sessions are usually weekly for the whole DBT program and are customized to a recovering addict’s personality. Therapists can help the addict decide how to apply their new skills best.
- Phone coaching – When challenging circumstances arise, outside of therapy or skills training classes, patients can call their therapists to help coach them on their training and assist them in managing feelings and coping with stress.
- Team consultation – This consultation is for therapists and other healthcare providers to work together and stay motivated in providing the best care possible for patients that can be a challenge to treat.
DBT and Other Treatments
Dialectical behavior therapy is being used in many addiction treatment centers and is useful for teaching recovering addicts coping techniques, communication skills, and self-confidence essential to overcoming drug addiction. Both inpatient and outpatient drug rehab facilities have the resources needed to train and treat all types of patients. The 24-hour medical care provided by inpatient recovery centers helps emotionally-distressed individuals complete detox and manage withdrawal.
DBT is also effective when combined with other treatment modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management therapy, and community reinforcement therapy. Support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can also benefit patients in helping integrate new, drug-free peer groups after treatment.
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