How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Benefit Addiction Treatment?

There is a wide variety of treatments available for addiction issues, including psychotherapy. One element of psychological treatment that was developed to assist treating people with severely damaged thought processes in known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. This form of treatment works by addressing paradoxical responses some patients have towards standard forms of intervention and has become extremely popular in recent years for treating severe mental health conditions or patients who have failed to respond to other types of therapy in drug and alcohol rehab.

The Principles of DBT

Some people struggling with addiction issues can have extremely dark and suicidal thought processes which need to be addressed by therapy that changes their thinking, actions, and attitudes. This kind of therapy also helps them to become more accepting of the aspects of their daily lives that contributed to their negative behaviors. However, traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques available before DBT became recognized often failed to get patients to open up completely to the process, leading to them dropping out of drug and alcohol rehab altogether.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy was developed to deal with these tougher cases, where patients have developed a perceived or very real resistance to other forms of psychological treatment for their addiction. CBT differs in that it sets out to identify and change negative thought process by pushing for positive behavioral change, whereas DBT deals with the underlying psychological aspects driving those negative behaviors.

As a form of CBT, DBT focuses on an individuals’ thinking, or cognition that is behind their belief systems, personal expectations and whatever assumptions they have made of the world around them. By assisting the patient to alter some of their irrational beliefs and assumptions, DBT is very effective in promoting behavioral change. In cases where patients have chronic mental health issues that have contributed to them resisting treatment, DBT works to help them understand that change is important to growth and something that should be embraced, rather than regarded as a necessary evil.

The DBT Approach

DBT therapy is extremely comprehensive and multi-faceted, involving several mechanisms of interventions to engender acceptance of change in the patient, motivating them to acknowledge and address the aspects of their lives they are able to change for themselves. Resistance to change is a common obstacle to successful alcohol and drug rehab and DBT is particularly useful in providing another path for patients to achieve enough self-awareness to create goals and objectives they can positively strive towards that are personal to them.

The main way DBT is delivered is through individual therapy, although increasingly counselors and therapists are available at the end of the phone to deal with real-world situations patients may be struggling to cope with. As with other psychological therapies, the relationship between therapist and patient is crucial to successful treatment. Over time, DBT therapists are able to sharpen and hone their skills in treating each individual patient as their relationship and understanding of one another deepens and grows.

How the DBT Approach Is Prioritized

Every single patient entering drug and alcohol treatment centers will have an individual set of issues and problems to deal with. This is the principal reason it is important to carry out a full assessment on a case-by-case basis. Assessment allows a DBT therapist to understand and evaluate the specific issues a patient faces so they are able to design the most appropriate treatment program. It is important that a therapist uses the empirically validated protocols of DBT while recognizing the individual needs of each patient.

In general DBT therapy offered at drug and alcohol rehab centers is prioritized in the following order to:

        Deal with any serious or life-threatening issues such as suicidal thoughts or someone with severe substance disorder.

        Address any counterproductive behaviors such as being late for appointments, not completing assignments or causing disruption in therapy sessions that can potentially prevent patients from successfully completing a treatment program at drug and alcohol rehab centers.

        Behaviors and circumstances that may be causing relationship issues, depression, sleeping problems or difficulties at work are addressed as the next priority.

        Teaching patients new skills to replace negative behaviors and thought processes are worked on next. Therapists will help patients identify personal goals and objectives that are sufficient motivation for successful completion of treatment and a healthy recovery.

        DBT therapy sets out to address all the issues affecting a patient’s quality of life in order of impact. The final phase of therapy involves as many issues are addressed as necessary to allow the client to achieve their personal goals.

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