DBT for Addiction

Have you ever struggled with addiction or substance abuse?  It’s a relentless cycle that may seem impossible to escape.

The good news is that there are powerful and effective therapeutic approaches in the realm of addiction treatment; one such approach is dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT.

Originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder, DBT has been modified to address a wide range of mental health conditions and difficulties, including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, among others. With addiction being a complex and multifaceted challenge, DBT offers a comprehensive framework that targets emotional regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness. With the right therapist and dedication, DBT can be the key to finally overcoming your addiction for good. Learn more about it here at the Discovery Institute of New Jersey!

What Is the Cognitive Triangle, and How Does It Work?

dbt for addiction

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive and evidence-based therapeutic approach that primarily focuses on helping individuals who struggle with intense emotions, self-destructive behaviors, and interpersonal skills. It is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This is known as the cognitive triangle.

Thoughts. At the core of the Cognitive Triangle are your thoughts, or cognitions. These are the ideas, beliefs, and interpretations you hold about yourselves, others, and the world around us.

Feelings. At another vertex lies the depiction of the emotions you experience in response to your thoughts. Negative thoughts may lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, or frustration, while positive thoughts can evoke joy, excitement, or contentment.

Behaviors. The third corner of the triangle signifies your actions, reflecting the behaviors you engage in based on your thoughts and emotions. For instance, if you feel uncertain or anxious about a situation, your action may involve avoiding it altogether.

DBT teaches that our thoughts directly influence our emotions and behaviors. For example, if you have the thought, “I can’t deal with this stress without using drugs,” it can lead to feelings of anxiety and the behavior of substance use. DBT helps you identify unhealthy thoughts and replace them with more balanced ones.

How Dialectical Behavior Therapy Works

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, commonly known as DBT, incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy with principles derived from Eastern philosophies. This integrative approach can be remarkably effective for individuals grappling with addiction.

DBT helps you develop coping strategies to avoid relapse. You’ll learn skills like mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

In DBT, you work with a therapist, either one-on-one or in a group. Therapy often involves homework where you practice the skills you’re learning. The goal is to give you tools to avoid triggers, cope with cravings, and maintain your recovery. DBT also focuses on acceptance—learning to embrace yourself and your situation as they are right now.

DBT uses a compassionate, non-judgmental approach to help you build a life worth living. Look for programs that meet weekly for 6–12 months. If you’re struggling with addiction, it may be just what you need to find freedom from substance use at last. Take it a shot; there’s so much to gain.

What are the Benefits of DBT for Addiction?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a wide range of benefits for individuals struggling with various mental health challenges. Some of the key advantages of DBT for addiction recovery include:

DBT helps you develop skills to cope with cravings and triggers that can lead to relapse. You’ll learn strategies like urge surfing, distraction, and self-soothing to avoid turning to drugs or alcohol. These skills give you alternatives to rely on when you have the desire to use them.

Addiction is often linked to difficulty regulating emotions. DBT helps you gain awareness and acceptance of your emotions while also learning how to regulate them in a healthy way. You’ll learn how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected and gain skills to break unhealthy patterns.

DBT usually involves group sessions where you can connect with others struggling with similar issues. This support from peers in recovery, along with your therapist and treatment team, helps create accountability and motivation to stay committed to your sobriety.

DBT focuses on finding balance in life to establish stability in recovery. You’ll learn skills related to mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Together, these help you gain awareness of yourself and your environment, cope with stress in healthy ways, manage your emotions and reactions, and build strong relationships.

DBT helps keep you motivated through validation and by challenging negative or self-defeating thoughts. Your therapist will help you set small, achievable goals to build confidence in your ability to recover. Celebrating milestones along the way keeps you encouraged to continue progressing.

Overall, DBT provides you with a set of practical strategies and a strong support system to help you overcome addiction and stay committed to your recovery. The benefits of improved coping, emotion regulation, life balance, and motivation can help create lasting change.


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DBT Techniques That Help With Addiction

DBT uses several techniques to help treat addiction. Some of the most effective include:

Mindfulness teaches you to focus your awareness on the present moment and accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment. When cravings strike, mindfulness can help you avoid reacting impulsively. Pay close attention to the physical sensations of the craving, like an itch you don’t scratch. The urge will pass. Mindfulness also reduces stress and negative emotions that often trigger substance use.

Life is stressful, and distress tolerance skills help you cope in healthy ways. Learn to distract yourself, self-soothe, improve the moment, and accept what you can’t change. Call a friend, take a walk, or journal your feelings instead of using drugs or alcohol. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

Addiction is often a way to escape painful emotions. Emotion regulation teaches skills to understand your feelings, reduce vulnerability to negative emotions, and respond to distressing feelings in constructive ways. Identify the underlying emotions behind your cravings and urges. Find new ways to meet emotional needs that don’t involve substance use.

Improving how you communicate and set boundaries with others leads to healthier relationships and less desire to use substances to cope with relationship problems. Be assertive without aggression, learn to say no while maintaining self-respect, and build intimacy through honest and compassionate communication.

The key to overcoming addiction with DBT is practicing these techniques every day. It will feel unfamiliar and difficult at first, but with time and commitment, you can retrain your brain and build a life of meaning, connection, and purpose without relying on drugs or alcohol. Staying dedicated to your recovery and continuing to strengthen your skills and support system can help ensure long-term sobriety success.

Finding DBT Therapy and Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

So you’ve decided to seek DBT therapy for addiction. That’s a big step towards recovery. Now you need to find the right facility or therapist to provide this treatment. There are a few options to consider:

Our residential treatment center in New Jersey offers DBT as part of their addiction programs. Call around to local centers to inquire about the specifics of their DBT services. Some things to ask:

  • Do they have therapists specifically trained in DBT? DBT certification and experience are important.
  • Is DBT a core part of the program or an add-on service? Programs where DBT is central to treatment may be preferable.
  • What is the therapy schedule? More frequent sessions, especially to start, are better. Weekly individual and group sessions are common.

Seeking a private therapist in your area who specializes in DBT and addiction is also an option. Ask potential therapists about their experience helping clients with substance use disorders. A therapist with certification in DBT from a reputable training program is ideal. They can work with you one-on-one to provide comprehensive DBT therapy.

For some, online DBT programs may be a good solution. There are therapists and programs that offer DBT via teletherapy and virtual meetings. Do some research to find reputable options. Make sure any program has therapists who are properly trained and experienced in DBT and addiction treatment.

Check with Insurance Providers

If you have health insurance, check with your provider to see if DBT for substance use disorders is covered under your plan. They can also provide a list of in-network providers and treatment facilities that offer DBT

Whichever path you choose, commit to the process. DBT can be very effective at helping change self-destructive behaviors, but you have to put in the work. Be open and willing to learn new coping strategies and ways of thinking. With the support of a skilled DBT therapist, you can gain control over your addiction and build a healthier, happier life.

DBT at Discovery Institute Can Help You or a Loved One Recover

At Discovery Institute, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a valuable resource in the journey of recovery for you or your loved one. Our program offers expert guidance, comprehensive treatment, and practical coping strategies. Our dedicated team is committed to providing the necessary support and tools for achieving sustainable, positive change and growth. Contact us now to begin your healing journey!


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