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What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

a patient sits on a couch while a therapist takes notes and explains to the patient about what is dialectical behavior therapy

One of the most significant advances in addiction treatment is Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). So, what is dialectical behavior therapy? DBT can transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors into positive outcomes.

At Michael’s House, our dialectical behavior therapy program can offer patients additional ways to manage their mental health and addiction issues. DBT provides an understanding of the biological, psychological, and social causes behind substance use. Call us at 760.548.4032 to learn more about how DBT can help you or someone you care about.

What Is DBT?

If you are wondering, “What is dialectical behavior therapy?” it is a comprehensive, evidence-based treatment approach designed to help individuals struggling with emotional instability, self-destructive behaviors, and interpersonal difficulties. Derived from cognitive-behavioral therapy and influenced by Zen Buddhism principles, DBT focuses on the dialectic of accepting one’s experiences while simultaneously working towards change.

A cornerstone of DBT is teaching skills in four key areas:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

This unique approach has demonstrated efficacy in treating a range of conditions, including addiction, eating disorders, and especially borderline personality disorder—for which it was initially developed.

DBT does not merely address symptoms but targets the root cause of distress. It also provides individuals with a robust toolkit to manage life’s challenges and may improve the overall quality of life.

How Does DBT Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) operates on several key principles that collectively guide its implementation in therapeutic settings. Here’s how it works:

  • Mindfulness Encourages patients to be fully present and aware in each moment, promoting acceptance and reducing judgments about oneself and others.
  • Distress tolerance – Teaches techniques to tolerate and survive crisis situations without resorting to self-destructive behaviors. This includes practices like radical acceptance, turning the mind, and distraction.
  • Emotion regulation – Helps individuals identify, label, and adjust intense and out-of-control emotions. It focuses on understanding the function of emotions, reducing emotional vulnerability, and increasing positive emotional experiences.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness – Helps to build effective strategies for asking what one needs, saying no, and managing interpersonal conflicts.

Through these pillars, DBT equips individuals with the necessary tools to manage their emotions, interact effectively with others, and navigate through life’s challenges.

10 Things to Know About Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Some significant things you should know about DBT include:

1. Helps Get to the Root of Addiction

When an individual recalls and relives past events with a counselor, they are able to trace the roots of their addiction and make necessary changes that affect every aspect of their life.

2. No Two DBT Treatments Are Alike

Because the core of DBT involves exploring the individual’s specific background, every DBT treatment is completely customized, based solely on the patient’s actual experiences.

3. Still a Growing Field

While few drug rehab programs offer dialectical behavior therapy, the number is growing. Addiction treatment programs report high success rates for patients who engage in DBT, and the word is spreading fast.

4. Based on Buddhist Teachings

Zen Buddhist instruction to gain an awareness of one’s self is at the core of DBT. DBT counselors use this heightened sense of awareness to help the individual see how their actions affect others and vice versa.

5. Focuses on the Improvement of Self-Image

DBT treats conditions where the individual’s self-image needs restoration. By developing a more effective means of communicating with others, DBT helps the individual gain confidence in even stressful situations.

6. Helps People with Self-Harm Issues

DBT helps individuals with cutting and self-harm issues better understand their triggers and change the decision-making process that leads to self-harm.

7. Helps People Become More Assertive

There is a great deal of “role-playing” involved in DBT. Many of these situations help the individual learn how to say “No” to those temptations and negative influences that have pushed them further into the cycle of addiction.

8. Teaches Tolerance

Another hallmark of DBT is training the individual to be tolerant of others, even when their viewpoints are different or perceived as a potential threat.

9. Developed to Help People with Borderline Personality Disorder

The first uses of DBT were in the field of borderline personality disorder, where patients found renewed confidence and assertiveness thanks to the therapy.

10. More Than a “Band-Aid” on the Issue

DBT is not a solution that provides immediate results. Instead, it focuses on resolving underlying concerns and providing individuals with the necessary abilities to succeed.

Contact Michael’s House to Learn More About Our DBT

We at Michael’s House are ready to help you start your new life. DBT can offer various benefits to individuals who come to Michael’s House for rehab and are given a chance to take part in this incredible form of therapy.

To learn more about what is dialectical behavior therapy, contact Michael’s House today at 760.548.4032 for more information.