The Benefits of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Did you know a person’s mental health affects their addictive behavior and vice versa? With this in mind, those suffering from addiction can benefit from an approach that is tailored to them based on their mental health and what role it plays in the problem.

If you know someone suffering from addiction who has tried rehab programs without success, this therapy could be a step in the right direction. It not only focuses on the addiction but also on the person, so healing is more complete and the addict can cope with life outside the program.

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. It was originally used to treat suicidal patients and those suffering from borderline personality disorder. Research has shown that this treatment is also effective in treating substance abuse.

The treatment teaches addicts to be in control of their behavior by obtaining foundational skills. So, what are these skills, and how do they benefit the addict?


Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of and mindful about in the moment. This allows you to focus on the present and not on the past or future. By doing so, people become more aware of their actions, thoughts, feelings and reactions.

While focusing on what’s happening now, it’s easier to stop, identify emotions and take appropriate action that means making healthy decisions.

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance teaches how to get through a tough situation instead of trying to change it. We all end up in situations outside our control that lead to stress and anxiety, but if you learn how to deal with the situation, you can tolerate it and breathe through it.

This skill works on accepting daily experiences and learning to cope with negative experiences. Fighting reality only makes the situation more stressful.

Emotions Regulation

Dialectical behavioral therapy teaches how to effectively change emotions for the desired outcome. Emotions regulation focuses on how emotions work and how to manage them, instead of being managed by them.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness focuses on how one interacts and reacts to others in different types of relationships. It teaches how to say no others without feeling bad about it. It also focuses on how to ask for what you want and still maintain your self-respect.

This includes resisting pressures from others and maintaining a personal point of view or position.

Benefits for Addicts

Dialectical behavioral therapy benefits addicts in several ways.

  • The therapy is non-judgmental and does not punish the patient for the addictive behavior. Instead, it assumes the person wants to improve and is making the best possible choices under his or her current circumstances.
  • Therapists determine the amount of abstinence based on the patient, so it’s tailored to individual needs. This includes alcohol, drugs and prescription medications.
  • The therapy uses the skills of mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal skills and distress tolerance as a way to accept what is happening and what needs to be done to bring about change.

Prioritized Treatment Approach

This therapy targets each issue individually. This means the patient is not expected to work on all issues at once. People undergoing this type of therapy tackle one addiction or emotional problem at a time, focusing on the most dangerous first.

Life-threatening behaviors have priority, which means anything that could lead to the patient’s death. This includes any thoughts of suicide and any forms or thoughts of bodily injury.

Therapy-interfering behaviors are second and can be anything that interferes with a client’s ability to receive effective treatment. This can include missing therapy sessions or not working toward goals.

Quality-of-life behaviors include problematic relationships, financial crisis and mental disorders.

Skills attainment is the client’s need to learn new skills to replace ineffective behaviors that are preventing them from reaching certain goals.

Ongoing Support

Clients going through dialectical behavioral therapy are not alone. They have a team of professionals working with them in each step, as well as others going through similar situations and learning the same skills. This means ongoing support through the entire process. Patients can develop meaningful relationships with professionals and peers.

Why It Works

This therapy assumes destructive behaviors and addiction are coping mechanisms people learn to help them through a stressful or emotional time in their lives, or to cover up negative emotions. This emotional vulnerability, along with an environment that lacks respect and understanding, can lead to negative feelings and behaviors.

To deal with the product of this type of environment, a multifaceted approach like dialectical behavior therapy helps people cope with their emotions and learn to deal with negativeness in life without coping mechanisms, like destructive behaviors, self-harm or addiction.

The four components of this therapy allow a group of therapists to work together, allowing more than one mode of therapy. The patient can participate in group therapy, individualized sessions and phone coaching. The client receives continuous support throughout the program to boost motivation and achieve success.

While there are many different types of therapies and treatments for those suffering from addiction, some of the best programs treat the person as a whole, and take into account their emotional or mental issues, as well as addictive behaviors. When a person is diagnosed with both addiction and other issues, it is known as dual diagnosis.

With co-occurring disorders, just treating the addiction is not usually effective for long-term recovery. That’s why programs like dialectical behavioral therapy and others that treat more than just one issue are more effective when it comes to successfully treating patients for long-term sobriety.

If you or a loved one is looking for a more effective treatment to help bring about positive changes in life for long-term recovery, it’s worth looking into whether dialectical behavioral therapy is right for you.

Kalyan B Das

Kalyan is a web developer, a blogger and an online entrepreneur. He is the primary developer of this blog and takes care of all the technical happenings in this site

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