DBT is widely used in the treatment of substance use disorders. One of the core goals of DBT is to help patients build the confidence and coping abilities to effectively handle stressful situations. Some of the core principles of DBT—such as improving communication skills, coping skills, and self-image, are critical to helping those suffering from addiction move away from drug use. Dialectical behavior therapy can help those seeking addiction treatment learn several skills such as mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation, which effectively assist addicted people to stop using drugs and alcohol.
DBT also focuses on changing an individual’s behavior and surroundings to make sobriety easier. DBT strategies include helping patients seek out environments and peer groups that discourage drug use. DBT encourages addicts to remove triggers such as drug paraphernalia or unhealthy relationships from their lives, to bolster self-esteem and confidence, and help patients stay sober through stressful periods.
One of dialectical behavior therapy’s primary functions is to teach life skills that support sober living. This function is referred to as enhancing capabilities. Addiction can make it difficult for a person to take care of themselves. Making positive choices, following through on important responsibilities, and maintaining healthy behaviors can be challenging for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. A DBT therapist helps clients recognize areas of their life that they need to work on. Once the therapist and client have identified these areas, they work together to develop an arsenal of life skills that fight these negative influences.
Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on improving four major areas of a person’s life:
- Emotion regulation skills: Negative and dysfunctional emotions can be triggers for substance use. If a person is unable to handle their emotions in a healthy way, they may be tempted to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and relapse. Therapy sessions teach a person to regulate and relate to their emotions in a more productive way.
- Mindfulness skills: Mindfulness teaches a person to be more aware and present in the moment instead of getting overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings that are tied to the past and future. By paying better attention to these things, a person is better able to create a more calm and balanced state of mind. This can also help to reduce stress, a trigger for relapse.
- Interpersonal effectiveness: Relationships can become strained under the weight of addiction. Families, friendships, and work relationships often suffer as a person makes finding and using drugs a priority above almost everything else. Interpersonal effectiveness teaches a person how to improve their communication and relationship skills.
- Distress tolerance skills: These sessions work to remove or reduce any self-sabotaging behaviors in a person’s life. Under the therapist’s guidance, a person will work to develop tools that can help them overcome crisis situations. They will also learn how to handle distress better. One way of doing this is by practicing radical acceptance. Radical acceptance encourages a person to accept the present moment instead of resisting it or exhausting themselves by fighting to change it.