Therapy is a key component of drug addiction treatment. Talking to a therapist can help you understand the reasons and circumstances that led you to use drugs in the first place. Therapy can also teach you how to deal with challenging situations in a healthy way so you don’t feel the need to rely on addictive substances like drugs or alcohol. Psychologist Marsha Linehan created dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, to help stop people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) from harming themselves. Today, behavioral health experts also use DBT to treat substance use challenges because the practice is realistic about sobriety and abstinence, teaches people in recovery how to deal with difficult emotions, and helps individuals develop healthy coping and interpersonal skills.
What Is DBT Therapy?
Dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that uses a philosophical process called “dialectics” to help you deal with difficult emotions. Dialectics suggests that everything is composed of opposites and that change happens when there is a “dialogue” between these opposing forces. DBT also assumes that:
- Everything is interconnected
- Change is constant and unavoidable
- You’re more likely to find truth and reality when opposites come together rather than assuming one particular opposite is 100% true
In DBT, you’ll work with your therapist to resolve the contradictions that seem to exist between accepting yourself and dealing with change. As you learn to exhibit self-confidence in spite of painful emotions and changes, you should start to see positive changes in your life.
DBT Techniques and Strategies
There are 4 main DBT strategies that help promote positive behavior changes:
- Mindfulness can help you accept your thoughts, emotions, actions, and circumstances without judgment.
- Distress tolerance helps you cope with emotional pain and challenging situations. As you work through this strategy with your therapist, you’ll learn to tolerate difficult moments, teaching you how to accept painful situations for what they are and to let go of what you think they should be.
- Emotional regulation can help you manage intense emotions. You’ll learn to identify emotions for what they are and, over time, learn how to reduce your emotional vulnerability, cope better when highly emotional experiences arise, and experience more positive emotions.
- Interpersonal effectiveness strives to improve the way you communicate in relationships. This strategy can help you be more assertive, better communicate your needs, and set boundaries while keeping your relationships positive and healthy.
The Benefits of DBT for Treating Addiction
When experts use DBT for drug addiction treatment, they are seeking to help restore an individual’s emotional stability and reduce their dependency on drugs. They also use dialectical behavioral therapy because it’s effective. A study published in The American Journal on Addiction revealed that addiction recovery patients who received DBT were able to significantly reduce their drug use. In addition to that, DBT participants had an easier time managing difficult emotions and had healthier social relationships, as well.
DBT Trains You to Pay Attention to What’s Going on Inside Of You
More often than not, addiction and relapse happen when you’re overwhelmed or distracted by stressful life situations. In these moments, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease the discomfort you feel. DBT can help you manage painful emotions by teaching you to pay attention to what’s going on inside of you. Mindfulness, one of DBT’s core strategies, helps you become aware of how you are feeling emotionally, socially, mentally, spiritually, and physically. As you slow down and become aware of your reactions, you can more easily stay calm and avoid impulsive behaviors. In short, DBT can help you avoid continued substance use, drug cravings, and relapse by teaching you how to be more mindful of your thoughts and feelings.
DBT Helps You Manage Your Emotions In A Healthy Way
Recovering from addiction challenges can be an emotional journey. You might feel motivated and inspired one day and irritable, angry, and depressed the next day. Experiencing a range of emotions is completely natural, but you need to make sure you’re managing your emotions in a healthy way. If not, you might turn to substances as a way to “feel better” or numb the pain.
DBT shows you how to regulate your emotions in a constructive way. One effective technique you’ll learn in DBT is a practice called “opposite action.” The strategy is simple but powerful: identify how you’re feeling and do the opposite. For example, when you feel angry and want to yell, do something that calms you down and makes you laugh instead. This straightforward skill allows you to regain control of your emotions, which can help decrease your dependence on substances like drugs and alcohol.
DBT Teaches You to How to Tolerate and Survive Crises
Life can throw you a curveball when you least expect it. This can feel especially true when you leave an addiction treatment program. You may find it difficult to find a job. You might lose a trusted friend or close family member. You may run into financial trouble. If you’re not sure how to handle these common risks, you might turn return to your old pattern of substance use. DBT helps to lower the likelihood of relapse by showing you how to tolerate and survive unexpected life events.
For example, one technique you may learn in DBT is “putting your body in charge.” The idea behind this particular practice is to distract yourself from a challenging moment by allowing your emotions to “follow” your body’s physical movements. You can do this by running and up down a flight of stairs, getting up and walking around, or going outside if you’ve been stuck inside for a while. Learning to control yourself during distressing moments is a key skill you’ll need to master to maintain long-term sobriety.
DBT Shows You How to Maintain Healthy and Positive Relationships
As you rehabilitate your life and work toward long-term recovery, you’ll need to develop and maintain healthy relationships. DBT techniques like the acronym G.I.V.E. can help you assert yourself in relationships while keeping your connections positive and healthy. With the acronym, you’re taught to be:
- Gentle and to not attack, judge, or threaten others
- Interested in others and show good listening skills
- Validating of others by acknowledging their thoughts and feelings
- Easygoing, by maintaining a good attitude, smiling and trying to remain lighthearted
DBT Helps You Develop “A Clear Mind”
When you’ve used substances for a long period of time, your brain develops an addictive state of mind, an impulsive condition that is willing to do anything for a “fix.” When you’re no longer ruled by substances, your brain moves from this addictive state to a clean state. The “clean mind,” however, may be oblivious to dangers that might trigger habitual problem behaviors. DBT helps you to develop a “clear mind” instead, which combines aspects of both the addictive and clean minds. Remember, DBT follows the principle that change happens when two opposite forces dialogue with one another. A clear mind is an example of that kind of change. Once you’ve developed a clear mind, you are clean and sober but also remember the triggers associated with the addictive state of mind. You know that relapse can happen, so you’re mindful of your emotions, thoughts, and actions. While you enjoy the success of your recovery, you have a plan in place to handle urges and temptations in a positive, healthy way that will help you maintain your sobriety.
Let Us Help You Recover Your Life
Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we know that treatment is only the beginning of your recovery journey. That’s why we include holistic therapies like DBT into our recovery curriculums. Holistic therapeutics practices like DBT and CBT can help establish healthy behavior patterns that will stick with you for the rest of your life. Call us today at (760) 253-1414 if you or a loved one are looking for a comprehensive way to treat substance use challenges.
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