A DBT Skills Training Group meets weekly for two to three hours for in six to 12 months
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, is a modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is very effective for addiction treatment with most drugs, but particularly for those with a Dual Diagnosis – individuals struggling with both mental illness and drug abuse.
Gaining an understanding of the main tenets of DBT and the processes an individual goes through will provide you with the information you need to know to determine if this therapeutic approach is valuable for you.
What Does DBT Look Like?
Dialectical behavior therapy generally has four components to it:
- DBT Skills Training Group: A classroom setting in which individuals learn the skills required to function more effectively, the DBT Skills Training Group meets weekly for two to three hours for in six to 12 months.
- DBT Individual Therapy: These weekly one-on-one meetings allow a person to conquer the specific challenges he is facing with the support of a therapist. This component of DBT typically runs concurrently with the Skills Training Group.
- DBT Phone Coaching: An individual in DBT can call her therapist outside of the therapy sessions for in-the-moment coaching, which allows her to have immediate support to make a wise choice.
- DBT Therapist Consultation Team: This phase of DBT exists for the therapists. These teams provide encouragement, strategy, and support for these therapists who are working very intensely with others who have deep struggles.
Moving beyond form and into function, DBT focuses on four behavioral skill sets:
- Mindfulness: The ability and practice of being fully aware and present in each moment.
- Distress Tolerance: Tolerating pain in circumstances that are unchangeable.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness: Maintaining both self-respect and respect for others while being able to say no or ask for what you want from others.
- Emotional Regulation: The skill of regulating and changing distressing or destructive emotions.
DBT is fundamentally concerned with helping individuals create lives worth living. Because those being helped with this therapy are struggling with mental illnesses and substance abuse, the goal is a challenging one. But by developing the DBT skills, individuals can alleviate the symptoms of both of their issues.
What Are the Stages of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?
DBT follows a consistent four-stage process to walk individuals from despair into a purposeful life.
- Stage 1 – Moving from being out of control to being in control. During this stage, individuals learn to eliminate life-threatening behaviors and choices that interfere with treatment, as well as decrease habits that lower their quality of life.
- Stage 2 – Moving from being emotionally shut down to experiencing emotions fully. This stage moves a person past dwelling in quiet desperation by teaching him how to experience his emotions without allowing his emotions to rule him entirely.
- Stage 3 – Building an ordinary life and solving ordinary life problems. The issues in this stage are the same everyone deals with – job dissatisfaction, a marriage without intimacy, or not reaching career goals.
- Stage 4 – Moving from incompleteness to connection. In this stage, individuals often feel a spiritual emptiness or dryness as part of an existential crisis. It is common for those in Stage 4 to move toward a religious community to discover their place in the broader universe.
Moving through these four stages helps individuals to systematically tackle and move through the struggles they face.
Specific Behavioral Focuses for Substance Abuse
Those utilizing dialectical behavioral therapy as part of a recovery process for addicts will modify the development of the skills and stages above to focus on breaking the power of addiction in a person’s life. Some of the specific targeted goals for addicts would include the following:
- Decrease the use and dependence upon any illicit drug, prescription medication, or alcohol
- Build up an ability to remain steadfast toward recovery despite the pain of withdrawals
- Lessen the power of cravings for drug use
- Remove reminders and triggers for drug use, including unhealthy relationships, drug paraphernalia, or even changing contact information such as a phone number or email
- Developing healthy habits and behaviors by intentionally seeking environments that discourage drug abuse or pursuing vocational goals
Professionally coordinated therapy such as DBT can be the key to a successful recovery. This is particularly true of those with a Dual Diagnosis. If you don’t carefully and actively monitor your mental well being, returning to the addiction begins to feel like the right choice. But understanding the value of therapy to help you make the necessary changes in your thoughts and actions will allow you to push through to recovery.