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What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, And How Can It Help Treat Addiction?

At La Jolla Recovery we believe in offering science based modalities and the latest in therapies including DBT or dialectical behavioral therapy.

DBT is a modified form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches individuals how to develop different ways to deal with anxiety, stress and methods to help regulate our emotions and improve our relationships with others. It also teaches individuals how to live in the present moment. Given the challenges of early sobriety after withdrawing from alcohol or prescription drugs, this therapy effectively deals with the emotional, physical, and cognitive stressors with support from our team in the group and individual settings.

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Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment with DBT

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Although this therapy was initially designed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorders, it is now readily used to help treat other mental conditions like eating disorders, alcoholism, and other self-destructive behaviors.

This therapy can also manage post-traumatic stress disorder because it centers on individuals having difficulty regulating their emotions.

Dialectical behavior therapy has various techniques and has become a psychotherapeutic approach to treat multiple drug addictions, alcoholism, and dual-diagnosis disorders common in sobriety. It is one of the most common forms of therapy, along with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), ACT, and nutrition.

History of DBT

This technique was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1980s when they realized that cognitive-behavioral therapy was not working well with patients that presented borderline personality disorders, so new techniques were added. A new treatment was developed to meet the needs of these patients.

The following are techniques used in dialectical behavior therapy:

  • Individual therapy: With the help of professional therapists, individuals learn to adapt these behavioral skills to their life’s challenges.
  • Group therapy: Individuals are taught behavioral skills within a group of like-minded people.
  • Aftercare therapy: After discharging detox or rehab, clients can stay in touch with their therapist or continue counseling afterward for help while having trouble coping with a difficult situation experienced sober and receiving guidance.

How DBT Helps Stay Sober

There are also some techniques and strategies used in dialectical behavior therapy, such as:


Living in the present moment it’s called mindfulness, and one of the main benefits of dialectical behavior therapy; this method helps you learn what you’re feeling, thinking, and paying attention to the sensations of your body, as well as your impulses.

It also helps you use your senses to learn what is happening in your surrounding environment in a nonjudgmental way.

This strategy helps you focus and slow down by using skills to help you cope with emotional turmoil. This strategy also enables you to avoid negative thoughts and engage with them by helping you stay calm and breaking impulsive, emotional patterns.

DBT and Distress Tolerance

This strategy helps you accept who you are and the situation that you are currently going through; dialectical behavioral therapy teaches different techniques that help patients go through difficult situations like:

  • Learning to distract oneself
  • Learning how to improve difficult moments
  • Self-soothing
  • Thinking of the good things and not-so-good things about being intolerant with distress.

These techniques can empower patients and help them get through difficult emotions, and give them a more positive outlook on their situations.

dbt treatment addiction variety of people provide psychological support to a sad male patient during a group therapy session
dialectical behavioral therapy drug abuse overhead view of young and mature patients meeting for conversation with psychologist rehab california

Interpersonal Effectiveness

This technique helps the client keep a more positive and healthy relationship with others by assisting them to express their needs become assertive in their relationships. The objective is for the patient to learn how to respect himself and others. Interacting with peers from inpatient rehab, outpatient, or after discharge is critical in early sobriety.

DBT and Emotional Regulation

How does DBT help in Alcohol and Drug Rehab?

This technique allows patients to navigate strong feelings more positively; their skills will help them identify, change, and name their emotions.

When patients can identify and handle difficult emotions, they are less vulnerable and have more positive experiences with their feelings.

Individuals who suffer mental health conditions and emotional outbursts are more likely to abuse substances to self-medicate.

During recent years addiction treatment centers have been using Dialectical Behavior Therapy as part of their programs.

Many skills, like self-image and coping skills, benefit individuals suffering from addiction.

Patients with drug abuse can help themselves with dialectical behavior therapy by learning skills like mindfulness, emotional adjustment, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness to help stop the use of alcohol and drugs or comorbid disorders such as borderline personality or depression.

This therapy also helps by changing the patient’s surroundings and behavior, making sobriety easier.

Some strategies may include:

  • Seeking out-group like-minded people discouraging drug use.
  • Removing unhealthy relationships and triggers from their daily lives.
  • Boosting self-esteem, being patient and remaining sober through difficult moments.

How is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy implemented in rehab and outpatient?

How does DBT work?

Clients are proactive participants in DBT with exercises like journaling their urges, emotions, and behaviors throughout the day.

La Jolla Recovery addiction centers use dialectical behavior therapy as part of their rehab program and integrate other evidence-based therapies.

Dialectical behavioral therapy teaches coping techniques, communication skills, and self-confidence, another essential aspect of overcoming drug addiction.

Rehabilitated individuals are supported by our clinical professionals trained to treat all sorts of patients. Individuals in detox with withdrawal symptoms can become emotionally distressed and are cared for 24 hours a day by medical experts that possess the required skills to help patients manage stress. La Jolla Recovery addiction treatment centers offer therapies including dialectical behavioral therapy later in rehab, outpatient, IOP, and even suggested in aftercare such as sober living to prevent relapse and support healthy recovery.

What makes dialectical behavioral therapy is that approach has been found to help patients who may have had difficulties recovering with other treatment methods. Analytic means bringing together two opposite ideas; these two ideas are change and acceptance.

Trauma can be difficult to overcome, primarily when it has led to negative emotions; this, in turn, leads to drug abuse and alcoholism. An individual who has experienced trauma in the past can have a hard time accepting it and dealing with its negative emotions in the present. Many people who share past trauma suffer emotional diseases such as self-issue, extended depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

How can DBT treat alcoholism?

How else can DBT affect alcohol abuse?

Clients in our rehab program suffering from alcoholism often have difficulty dealing with fear and emotions; alcohol helps these people escape from their feelings for a while instead of dealing with the issues.

Alcoholics frequently have undiagnosed mental illnesses and disorders such as stress, depression, and lethargy, and drinking becomes a way to manage the symptoms of this mental condition.

Dialectical behavior therapy offers the necessary skills that help deal with everyday situations and emotions.

When in dialectical behavioral therapy, unhealthy behavior substitutes an addictive one and helps control difficult emotions with healthier coping skills. Cravings can be reduced by practicing dialectical behavior therapy because it allows the patient recognize the triggers that made them abuse alcohol in the past.

Dialectical behavioral therapy is good for treating alcoholism because it positively reinforces patients and keeps them motivated throughout recovery. Mental health disorders such as dual diagnosis including schizophrenia and bipolar are attended well with DBT approaches when clients have been resistant to therapy or don’t know what to do if previous attempts have been unsuccessful, such as only 12 steps.

How can DBT help me with addiction?

By the continual use of the new coping skills, risky and self-destructive behaviors are reduced individual can feel validated with a nonjudgmental approach and can feel free to talk about complex issues.

At La Jolla Recovery, DBT is one of the iontegrative approaches to healing in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Reach us today to begin your journey towards a life of freedom. DBT can mean achieving long-lasting sobriety by viewing problems that may seem impossible to resolve in the past.

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