What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). DBT is also known as an evidence based treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. DBT has elements of cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness based cognitive therapy, and it focuses on teaching patients how to regulate their emotions, tolerate distress, and communicate effectively. This therapy teaches you skills that can help you achieve a happier, more functional lifestyle despite any challenges you may face at any given time. DBT skills training teaches you how to manage your mood, cope with stress, and develop and maintain healthy relationships. It can also teach you how to live a full life while managing a behavioral or mental health disorder such as addiction, depression, or an eating disorder.
DBT sessions usually last between 60 and 90 minutes and take place with a therapist and consist of individual therapy sessions and group skills training sessions. This therapy is usually included in most drug and alcohol rehab programs and is available in our partial hospitalization program (PHP) and intensive outpatient program (IOP).
There are typically four modules included in DBT—each of which focuses on mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Mindfulness teaches you how to be present in the current moment. It gives you the ability to control your mind rather than letting your mind control you and your emotions. It involves observing your environment and focusing on what is happening in the present moment instead of allowing your mind to wander to thoughts that trigger stress and anxiety. In DBT, your therapist will teach you how and when to practice mindfulness skills so you can better manage harmful thoughts and intense emotions.
Emotion regulation teaches you how to manage and cope with pain in difficult situations. It helps you understand why you may be feeling certain emotions at any given time and accept your emotions for what they are without being too hard on yourself.
Distress tolerance teaches you various healthy ways to process and cope with intense emotional pain. The distress tolerance skills you learn in this module help you replace harmful behaviors that may only have intensified your pain. For instance, distress tolerance can teach you how to manage stress using yoga or meditation instead of turning to drugs and alcohol.
This module of dialectic behavioral therapy teaches you how to better navigate and understand your interpersonal relationships. The goal of interpersonal effectiveness is to help you strengthen relationships and cope with difficult situations that can potentially lead to strained or broken relationships. It can also teach you how to set boundaries and learn when to say “no” to protect your mental health.
What Are the Benefits of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
In the context of addiction, DBT can help you identify and address some of the root causes of your addiction.
For example, if everyday stress influences you to use drugs and alcohol to relieve your stress, DBT can teach you how to replace substance misuse with deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Or, if relationship problems are triggering both depression and your substance use disorder, DBT’s modules on interpersonal effectiveness and distress tolerance can show you how to change your thinking patterns and behaviors, so you can cope more efficiently.