5 Ways Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Supports Recovery

therapy session

Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT, is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that helps individuals find meaningful ways to live with addiction while reaching their goals. It is similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), except that CBT focuses on changing harmful behaviors whereas DBT focuses on validation and acceptance. 

Recovery Cove, an intensive outpatient program in Easton PA, provides DBT to our clients, and we see great results from it. We know that there is some confusion over this therapy, especially in terms of how it compares to CBT. To clear up any confusion, here are five important things to know about dialectical behavior therapy. 

1. DBT is a talk therapy that uses CBT principles. 

Dialectical behavior therapy is deeply rooted in CBT principles. The goal of CBT is to help clients identify their thoughts, feelings and behaviors so that they can think and act in healthier ways. In other words, CBT sessions involve talking about your life, analyzing your responses and changing your behaviors. 

DBT is a specialized form of CBT that focuses less on avoiding feelings and more on managing and accepting them. Even though you may have difficult feelings and life experiences, DBT will teach you how to live with them in a positive, meaningful way. 

2. DBT can treat a wide range of mental health disorders. 

Research has shown that DBT is effective at treating a variety of mental health conditions such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and substance use disorders. The goal of this therapy is to equip clients with the tools and resources needed to develop a healthier mindset. 

In fact, DBT was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder, but it has since been adapted to treat other mental health conditions due to its efficacy and flexibility. It can now be used to address any type of difficulty managing and regulating emotions, which is not uncommon with eating disorders, mental illness and substance use. 

3. There are four main skills in DBT. 

DBT involves four main skills to cope with everyday challenges: 

  • Mindfulness. Mindfulness means being completely aware and engaged in your current environment. This can help you live in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or future - two things you can’t control. 
  • Interpersonal effectiveness. Interpersonal effectiveness helps individuals balance priorities and demands, as well as nurture relationships. With healthier communication, you can develop better relationships. 
  • Distress tolerance. When people experience distress, they generally want to get rid of it, such as by getting drunk or high. DBT teaches individuals how to tolerate and accept their situation rather than trying to escape it.
  • Emotional regulation. We all have emotions, but it’s important to recognize the difference between having feelings and being controlled by them. Emotional regulation teaches people how to understand and work with their emotions. 

4. There are several goals clients work towards in DBT. 

Aside from the four skills learned in DBT, there are also several goals that therapists focus on: 

  • Reduce dangerous behaviors by being in control of your emotions 
  • Develop emotional regulation by allowing yourself to feel your emotions and cope with them in healthier ways 
  • Build a healthy life, with the ability to solve everyday problems and maintain stability in life 
  • Transition from feeling incomplete to feeling connected and complete 

5. DBT has proven to be effective. 

Dialectical behavior therapy is the most studied treatment available for borderline personality disorder and suicidal behavior. Studies show that DBT skills training improves a variety of conditions and is effective as a standalone treatment or adjunctive intervention. 

Most importantly, this therapy goes beyond treating mental health disorders and improves quality of life. Researchers have even found that DBT is far-reaching and can help individuals of various ages, gender identities, sexual orientations and race/ethnicities. 

DBT is one of many evidence-based therapies offered at Recovery Cove. Contact our team today to learn more about our treatment approach and how we help individuals with substance use disorders rebuild their lives.