Warner Park Recovery Center – Woodland Hills Mental Health

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

The Benefits of DBT When Treating Addiction


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What is DBT?

DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Its primary purpose is to identify and change negative thinking patterns and push individuals towards lasting positive behavioral changes. The philosophy of DBT is based on the concept that everything is composed of opposites and that change can occur when there is communication between opposing forces and helps the client to understand that change is constant and inevitable. DBT helps individuals prepare for and accept change and have the emotional bandwidth to manage new and unfamiliar situations healthily.

In DBT, the client and therapist work on both self-acceptance and moving towards change. DBT teaches the client coping mechanisms to deal with emotions and everyday situations that otherwise might be stressful or concerning for the individual. The therapist will use validation and motivation to keep the client engaged and motivated to work towards change. DBT can occur in an individual or group setting through talk therapy, art therapy, group discussions, and experiential activities. DBT is used in the treatment of young adults, adolescents, and older adults.

Who is Qualified to Perform DBT?

DBT is a form of psychotherapy that can only be practiced by a qualified, licensed mental health professional. Providers specializing in DBT often include case managers, therapists, social workers, counselors, and psychologists.

How Can DBT Help Me?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy offers a combined approach to treatment in both an individual and group setting. DBT has been known to help individuals in the following ways.

  • Learning emotional regulation and distress tolerance coping skills
  • Stress Reduction
  • Learning life skills and receiving help in job applications, resume building, cover letters. Job search and finding employment opportunities.
  • Achieve better communication skills.
  • Learn strategies to accept and tolerate life circumstances that are out of your control.
  • Changing thoughts, beliefs, and behavior patterns that no longer serve you.
  • Recognizing your own positive strengths and attributes

When is DBT Used?

DBT is often used in conjunction with other therapies, treatments, and medications to combat the appearance of symptoms with the following diagnosis and health problems:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A mental health condition that develops following a traumatic event. People with PTSD often experience flashbacks and nightmares of the event, isolation, increased anger and irritability, negative thoughts or feeling, and constant apathy.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): A mood disorder characterized by intense, excessive feelings of fear and worry about everyday situations. People with anxiety disorders often feel sudden feelings of intense fear or terror that reach within minutes (panic attacks). It is important to note that there are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and some pertaining to specific phobias, all of which can become prevalent after experiencing a traumatic event.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD): Characterized by an unreasonable or heightened fear of interacting with others and being in social situations (social phobia). Fears of not being able to escape disaster when in a crowd, appearing in crowded places, participating in social activities, and public speaking. People with SAD also tend to feel an overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about others judging them or being publicly embarrassed or ridiculed.

Depression: A mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. Depressive disorders can cause sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, trouble in focus and decision making, recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, and unexplained physical pain.

Addiction: An addiction is a chronic dysfunction of the brain’s reward system resulting in the obsessive pursuit of pleasure-seeking behaviors that are often destructive to the individual’s wellbeing. Addiction can involve alcohol, drugs, other substances, or behaviors such as self-harm or gambling. Addiction can lead to serious health problems and negative consequences like bankruptcy.

Eating Disorders: Irregular and harmful eating habits combined with severe distress about weight and body.

Dual Diagnosis: A combination of any two or more mental health diagnosis’, trauma, and addictions.

Addiction and DBT

DBT is known to be an extremely effective modality, contributing to the long-term success in patients who struggle with substance abuse, dual diagnosis, or who need primary mental health treatment. Upon entering treatment, most individuals have an extensive history of dealing with unhealthy behaviors relating but not limited to illicit substances, trauma, unhealthy behaviors, poor attitude, eating disorders, and self-esteem.

DBT therapies help the client acknowledge the ineffectiveness of old behaviors and take a leading role in goal setting and pioneering change in their own life. Within the therapeutic setting, patients are shown how to recognize their positive strengths and attributes and further develop and utilize their pre-existing skill sets. DBT can help clients come to terms with their past experiences and take the necessary steps to make a permanent change in the way they think and feel about themselves and their lives.

Using DBT while helping clients transition effectively back into life is necessary for creating lasting positive change. In building self-esteem while participating in DBT, clients are more likely to believe they can achieve success and are set up to excel in their academics, careers, and emotional relationships. DBT can be used in the long-term to aid in the recovery of substance use disorders and other mental health disorders.

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