DBT for Substance Abuse

If you’re coping with a substance use disorder, you may be wondering about treatments for the condition. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an effective treatment method for substance use disorders. It helps you learn healthy ways to respond to stress, and it can help you achieve sobriety.
At Amethyst Recovery Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida we explore the goals and components of DBT for substance abuse, and we’ll help you understand what to expect during therapy sessions.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that was created by Marsha Linehan, a psychologist in the United States. It was developed in the 1970s, and it is an adaptation of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). “Dialectical” refers to the synthesis of opposing concepts, including the opposing concepts of change and acceptance.

One of the main goals of DBT is to help clients accept themselves and the realities of their lives. DBT therapists help patients feel validated, supported, and accepted. Working in an environment of acceptance and encouragement, clients learn how to improve their mental health and create positive changes in their lives.

What Are the Benefits of DBT for Substance Abuse?

Studies show that DBT is an effective treatment for substance use disorders. In 2008, Melanie Harned and her colleagues conducted a study of patients with substance use conditions. One group of the participants received DBT, and a control group received standard treatment. The results indicated that 87.5% of those in the DBT group achieved complete remission (sobriety) for at least one month. Only 33.3% of the participants in the control group achieved that goal.

More recent studies continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of DBT for the treatment of substance use disorders. For example, studies have shown that DBT helps patients reduce their substance use. In addition, compared to people enrolled in traditional treatment programs, research suggests that DBT participants are more likely to continue with their therapy.

What Does DBT Treat?

Initially, DBT was intended as a treatment for patients with borderline personality disorder who were coping with chronic thoughts of suicide. These patients experienced frequent episodes of negative emotions that were very intense.

In recent years, DBT has been adapted to treat other conditions that may stem from counterproductive attempts to control negative emotions. For example, DBT is regarded as an effective treatment option for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Bulimia
  • PTSD

How Does DBT Work?

The core principle of DBT is acceptance. Over time, the therapy helps clients recognize the benefits of change. Clients learn problem-solving skills that enable them to respond to challenges in healthy ways, and they take steps to create positive changes in their lives.

What Are the Main Components of DBT?

DBT has five main components. The components are designed to build and reinforce positive behavior.

1. Capability Enhancement

For this component, DBT therapists help clients develop skills in mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance.

Mindfulness helps clients become more aware of their thoughts and emotions. Clients learn to focus on the present moment. During a session, they might use their five senses to observe objects, and they could do breathing exercises. These techniques keep clients anchored in the present, reducing worries about the past or the future.

Emotional regulation skills make it easier for clients to control their emotions. For example, if clients are experiencing negative emotions, they can use emotional regulation skills to shift to positive emotions.

Interpersonal effectiveness provides clients with the tools they need to manage relationship conflicts and build healthier relationships. Clients learn to set appropriate boundaries in their relationships, and they start to feel more comfortable with asking for what they want and need.

Distress tolerance helps clients understand and manage their emotions in difficult situations. Instead of trying to cope by using harmful behaviors, clients learn to respond to difficulties with safe strategies that are healthy and effective. Distress tolerance builds resilience and confidence.

2. Generalization
In this step, clients apply the skills they learn in DBT sessions to situations they’re facing in other settings, including home, work, and school. For example, clients might use emotional regulation skills to cope with a stressful issue at work, and they could employ interpersonal effectiveness skills to improve their relationships with their family members.
3. Motivational Enhancement
This component focuses on reducing behaviors that might have adverse impacts on a client’s quality of life. The therapist may ask the client to use a self-monitoring log to track negative behavior patterns. Using the information from the log, the therapist will adapt the client’s DBT sessions so that the most severe issues are treated first.
4. Capability and Motivational Enhancement for DBT Therapists
DBT therapists tend to work with individuals who are coping with intense emotions and extreme difficulties. To prevent burnout and similar issues, DBT therapists receive appropriate support, supervision, and guidance to help them provide excellent care for their clients.
5. Environmental Structuring
For this component, a client’s positive behavior is reinforced in different environmental settings. For example, when a client is participating in several treatment programs at a single treatment center, the therapist will ensure that all of the programs reinforce the positive behavior the client has learned in DBT.

How Is DBT Conducted?

dbt for substance abuse in Port St. Lucie, FL

In most settings, DBT includes individual therapy sessions, group sessions, and phone coaching.

Individual therapy sessions are one-on-one meetings between a client and a DBT therapist. During individual meetings, the therapist will help the client address relationship issues or other concerns that may be blocking the client’s progress. The client will work on new skills that can be used to replace unhealthy behaviors. The therapist might ask the client to keep a journal about emotions, behaviors, and experiences. The information in the journal helps with identifying patterns, and it will guide the work that’s done in individual sessions.

In group sessions, clients will have opportunities to learn more about mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance skills. They will be given opportunities to practice these skills.

Crucially, group sessions provide clients with peer support in recovery. So, why is peer support important? The benefits of peer support include accountability, connecting with others, and building respect and compassion. With peer support, clients tend to feel less alone, and they may feel more confident in their abilities.

With phone coaching, clients can call their DBT therapists for crisis assistance in between therapy sessions. For example, clients should call their therapists if they’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming themselves. In addition, clients might want to reach out to their therapists for advice about how they can apply their DBT skills to certain situations. Usually, therapists will be available to take calls at specific times of the day.

Is DBT for Substance Abuse Covered by Insurance?

If your insurance plan includes mental health coverage, DBT for substance abuse may be covered. Your coverage options will depend on the specifics of your health insurance plan. If you have questions about your coverage, your insurance company may be able to help, and your treatment center might be able to assist you with the insurance verification process.

How Can DBT for Substance Abuse at Amethyst Recovery Center Help Me?

Located in Port St. Lucie, FL, Amethyst Recovery Center provides holistic treatment for substance use disorders. The luxurious and comfortable environment at the treatment center will help you feel at ease, and you’ll be able to fully develop all of the skills you learn in DBT sessions.

As you work on your DBT skills at Amethyst Recovery Center, you’ll use other types of therapy to support those skills and address your mental, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual needs. For example, you can participate in yoga, art therapy, music therapy, acupuncture, and meditation. These will help clear your mind and reduce your stress levels so that you can be productive in your DBT work.

To find out more about how the treatment programs at Amethyst Recovery Center could work for you, contact us online or over the phone. We will be happy to walk you through your treatment options, and we can help you with any questions you have about admissions or insurance.



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