Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Emotions shape and drive our actions, with positive feelings often inspiring constructive activities and negative ones pushing us towards detrimental behaviours. This pattern is particularly true for those grappling with addiction, where emotional triggers can result in intense cravings and potential relapse. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) effectively regulates emotional responses better, equipping those in recovery to better cope with the challenges. At Oasis Runcorn, DBT is an essential therapy within our holistic rehab treatment programmes and has demonstrated incredible benefits for our clients.

What is DBT?

Developed in the 1980s by Dr Marsha Linehan, DBT is a subset of cognitive-behavioural therapy, initially devised to treat borderline personality disorder. DBT is underpinned by dialectical philosophy. This means it encourages people to accept different viewpoints, even if they seem to conflict with each other and try to find a balance between them. This can be really helpful when used in therapy for addictions DBT helps people to navigate their conflicting feelings.

For example, you may feel stuck between wanting to overcome your substance use and also feeling a strong pull towards the addictive behaviour. With DBT, you learn to accept these contradictory feelings without judging yourself harshly. At its core, DBT is about finding a balance between accepting yourself as you are right now and wanting to make positive changes in life.

The fundamentals of DBT techniques

DBT therapy for addiction treatment involves a succession of critical components. These components are all connected, beginning with the fundamental aspects of DBT and evolving into more intricate concepts. The four key modules include:

1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness in DBT is all about being fully present and aware of the moment. It is about noticing your thoughts, feelings and what’s happening around you without judgement. This is important for managing your feelings and not giving in to addictive behaviours.

2. Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance means learning how to handle tough situations without falling back on unhealthy behaviours like substance abuse. DBT teaches people how to deal with these situations in a healthier way so they are able to cope without relapsing.

3. Emotional regulation

This involves developing new skills and strategies to help manage and control your emotions. It is about understanding your emotions, knowing why they are there and figuring out ways to manage them effectively. This is important in treating substance and behavioural dependencies as they are often linked to difficulties in handling emotions.

4. Interpersonal relationship skills

This part of DBT focuses on communicating well, keeping relationships balanced and setting boundaries with others. During DBT, people learn how to improve their communication and relationship-building skills. This is important because addiction often leads to problems in relationships and communication with loved ones, colleagues and others.

DBT for addiction recovery

DBT is a really effective therapy for treating addiction for a number of key reasons:

First, DBT is supportive and works closely with the person in therapy, making them feel comfortable and confident in their journey to beat addiction. It’s a safe place where people can talk about their thoughts and feelings without fear of being judged.

Second, as a type of therapy that focuses on the connection between our thoughts, feelings and actions, DBT helps people understand how their thoughts and feelings can lead to cravings and falling back into dependency. DBT therapy teaches them how changing their behaviour can help manage these triggers. By figuring out the root causes of addictive behaviours and identifying negative thought patterns, people can break the cycle.

Third, DBT teaches practical skills. It gives people tools they can use in their daily lives to manage their emotions and fight against cravings and potential. This combination of skills makes DBT a powerful method for recovery, providing effective ways to deal with tough emotions and triggers that might lead to a relapse.

Combining DBT therapy with other treatment approaches

DBT can be used alongside a number of other addiction treatment therapies to offer a comprehensive treatment approach. These include:

DBT and one-to-one therapy…

When DBT is used together with one-to-one therapy, it can provide a more complete approach to recovery treatment. DBT can help you better understand your thoughts, feelings and actions so that you can then dig deeper into these with a personal therapist and work through them.

DBT and group therapy…

DBT can be very helpful when used in a group therapy setting, offering extra support and helping to build relationships. The support from group therapy can help reduce feelings of being alone, which is often felt during addiction recovery. It provides a supportive place to practice and use the skills learned in DBT, particularly interpersonal relationship skills.

DBT and the 12-step programme…

DBT can be effectively used in all stages of a 12-step programme. For example, admitting the harm done to yourself and others due to substance use or addictive behaviours is an important step. By understanding the emotional roots of these behaviours and learning how to control these emotions through DBT, people can forgive themselves and start taking positive steps to make up for the harm they caused.

The benefits of DBT after rehab

After finishing rehab, DBT techniques can help you control your emotions and keep away from cravings and relapse triggers. The best thing about these skills is that you can use them in your everyday life, not just in therapy sessions. They prepare you to handle any hard situations or triggers you might face during aftercare and beyond that could lead you back into the cycle of dependency. It’s like having a box full of tools ready to help you deal with any issues you might come across. With time and practice, these skills can become a natural part of how you handle situations, making it easier to stay sober in the long run.

Begin DBT at Oasis Runcorn

At Oasis Runcorn, our recovery programmes include a range of proven therapies, including DBT. Our goal is to help people overcome dependency and journey towards a successful recovery. To learn more about our DBT programmes and how they can assist you on your journey, please contact us today.

Frequently asked questions

What sets DBT apart from CBT?
While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) aims at identifying and altering negative thought patterns, DBT builds on this foundation by also integrating mindfulness, tolerance of distress, emotional regulation and skills for interpersonal effectiveness.
Does DBT involve one-to-one or group therapy?
DBT can be implemented in either a group or personal therapy context. Group therapy can offer a sense of community and additional support, whereas one-to-one therapy can allow for a more individualised focus on personal objectives and challenges.
What conditions does DBT address?
Originally developed for the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD), DBT has proven effective for a wide range of mental health conditions. In addition to addiction, it is commonly used for treating depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions involving emotional dysregulation. These all commonly occur with addiction, so DBT can help with the symptoms of both conditions at the same time.