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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in Illinois

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches patients that achieving two conflicting goals is possible.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches patients that achieving two conflicting goals is possible.

When it comes to drug rehab, different people don’t respond to the same treatment plan similarly. That’s why rehab facilities utilize various evidence-based therapies with their patients. These therapies focus on using techniques proven effective and backed up by research.

More than ever, medical and mental health experts rely on evidence-based practices (EBP) for treating drug addiction and other psychological issues.

One of the most effective kinds of EBPs is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), also known as “talk therapy,” is a form of psychotherapy for the treatment of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which was created by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. (Linehan, M. M) at the University of Washington. 

DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on how cognition, including ideas, beliefs, behavior, or deeds, plays a part in the emergence and management of BPD. It’s a type of talking therapy based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). However, it’s especially used for those who feel emotions much more intensely than others.

Many benefits are associated with getting DBT. It helps people understand and connect with their deepest emotions. It also enables recovering addicts to learn more about their triggers and relapse causes.

Read on to find out more about dialectical behavior therapy.

Understanding Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical means systematic reasoning between two contradicting ideas and how a person can resolve this conflict. Generally, opposite things don’t necessarily mean that one is true and the other isn’t.

DBT teaches patients that it’s possible to achieve two conflicting goals together. For example, one of the dialectical ideas certain people need to resolve is how to accept themselves while working on changing their behavior.

While CBT aids recovering patients to change their negative thoughts and behavior patterns, DBT also focuses on teaching them how to accept who they are and impose self-respect.

The main principles of DBT are

  1. Acceptance and Validation: teaching people coming from an invalidating environment how to understand and accept their emotions.
  2. Emotions Regulation: guiding patients through their intense emotions, which sometimes lead to self-injury, and guiding them on how to deal with and regulate those feelings.
  3. Change of Behavior: from self-destructive behaviors causing problems and distress to a more positive version of emotional situation responses.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: working on enhancing a person’s relationships with family and friends, usually affected by certain mental health conditions.
  5. Distress Tolerance: working on the cognitive distortions often accompanied by many mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, which often leads to suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

DBT’s Role in Addressing Emotional Dysregulation and Maladaptive Behaviors

In DBT’s biosocial theory, a person with intense emotional sensitivity develops what’s called “emotional dysregulation.” As the name suggests, it’s a failure to control and regulate one’s feelings, especially when living in an invalidating environment.

Such environments reject or criticize the expression of feelings and any type of emotional display. Plus, they oversimplify how easy it is to solve a problem, causing sensitive individuals to modify their behavior in response. In turn, it leads to maladaptive behavior patterns.

For example, one may have an over-emotional reaction due to a low threshold for emotional stimuli. Moreover, the same person might have difficulty calming down after experiencing intense emotions.

As a maladaptive behavior, this individual can resort to harmful actions such as drinking, substance abuse, etc.

DBT’s Role in Drug Addiction Treatment

Dialectical behavior therapy is highly effective in treating and managing a range of mental health conditions. Substance abuse disorder isn’t an exception.DBT helps recovering addicts identify their negative behavior and take control of their lives. It also teaches them valuable skills to help them along their recovery journey, such as mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

dbt for addiction treatment

Key Components of DBT in Drug Rehab

DBT is an effective form of talking therapy that’s highly engaging. It allows recovering drug addicts to work closely with their therapist and address addiction-related issues, including depression and anxiety.

The strategy of the DBT treatment program covers multiple areas and helps patients learn many skills through different treatment methods. In general, the majority of DBT programs for drug rehab offer the following.

1. Core DBT Skills Training Modules

Most DBT programs have a treatment pattern that involves a set of skills training modules, which are:

A. Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps patients apply the concept of living the moment without thinking of the past or worrying about the future. It’s the foundation of all other DBT skills that enables a person to accept things as they are.

Unlike what people may think, mindfulness isn’t about clearing your mind from all thoughts. Instead, it involves a nonjudgmental observation of one’s thoughts and feelings.

Drug addicts struggle with multiple negative thoughts, which may lead to relapses. However, mindfulness can help them understand and manage these thoughts to avoid triggers that cause many issues.

B. Emotion Regulation

Over prolonged periods, drug addiction can affect a person’s mental health, leading to emotional dysregulation. This causes many substance abusers to become unable to control intense reactions.

DBT helps with emotion regulation by teaching people how to overcome obstacles. This happens by focusing on positive events and applying logical actions.

C. Distress Tolerance

The ability to tolerate emotional pain is highly important for recovering addicts. That’s because the less the distress tolerance becomes, the more likely a person relapses.

DBT aids people to regulate their behavior under pressure and avoid self-destructive behavior as an automatic coping mechanism.

D. Interpersonal Effectiveness

Drug addiction has a substantial effect on interpersonal relationships. This causes it to become harder for recovering addicts to express their thoughts and ideas.

DBT trains those people to convey their feelings and desires without hurting others. It also teaches them to become better listeners and more socially involved.

2. Individual Therapy

Individual talk therapy is the most used method of treatment in DBT. It’s where a patient works face-to-face with the therapist, exploring how to handle challenging situations every day.

During these sessions, individuals often discover how thoughts and feelings are connected, as well as the triggers they have.

3. Group Skills Training Sessions

A patient should work with people suffering from similar conditions to obtain other essential skills. Group training sessions are perfect for developing new capabilities, as they involve many exercises and homework assignments.

4. Phone Coaching

This is a great method of support and continuing care for recovering addicts. Phone coaching guides patients in using their newly earned skills and helps maintain recovery.

5. Therapist Consultation

The best way to go is to provide a therapist consultation team to give patients the best treatment possible.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Benefits of DBT in Drug Rehab

DBT has great benefits when used to treat drug addiction. According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, women who received DBT significantly decreased opioid use over the following year. Plus, the same case studies had higher abstinence rates.

Some of the vital benefits of DBT in drug rehab include

  • Improved emotion regulation and coping skills
  • Enhanced interpersonal relationships and communication
  • Reduction of self-destructive behaviors and relapse risk
  • Increased self-awareness and personal growth

Integrating DBT With Other Therapies in Drug Rehab

Dialectical behavior therapy can be integrated with other addiction and drug rehab programs. That’s because psychological approaches may not be enough for certain cases. Take a look at two of these treatment combinations.

1. Combining DBT With Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT)

Primarily, medical-assisted treatments are especially vital for getting rid of opioid addiction. However, it can be useful for many other drug addictions, too. The use of medications is essential for such cases.

That’s why addressing substance use disorders requires more than just therapy sessions.

2. Incorporating DBT Into Group Therapy and Support Groups

Incorporating DBT into group therapy sessions is highly effective. Support groups are among the best places where people get to learn and practice their DBT skills.

Complementary Therapies and Approaches in Drug Rehab

Many other complementary therapies are there to help recovering drug addicts get their life back on track, including:

1. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

2. Motivational interviewing (MI)

3. Mindfulness-based interventions

Effectiveness of DBT in Drug Rehab

DBT is widely proven to be effective in treating drug addiction by multiple studies and research. Not only does it work on short-term sobriety goals, but it also helps thousands of patients avoid relapse and improve their quality of life in the long term.

Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of DBT in Drug Rehab

Just like many other intervention programs for treating drug addiction, some factors can affect the effectiveness of DBT. Determinants like the type of substance and other integrated psychosocial treatments play a major part in how successful DBT can be.

How To Access DBT in Drug Rehab

Finding a proper rehab program provider utilizing DBT shouldn’t be hard for recovering drug addicts. Whether via insurance or not, there’s always a suitable treatment option. Working with a qualified mental health professional DBT therapist can significantly impact the treatment outcome and success.

In addition, Utilizing self-help resources and online DBT programs is also a viable option.

Challenges and Limitations of DBT in Drug Rehab

Like most therapy options, DBT isn’t for everybody. Some limitations face the utilization of such therapy approach for treating drug addiction, such as:

  • Failure to process past traumatic experiences may be necessary for some patients to overcome.
  • Commitment requirements like homework and following strict boundaries.
  • The complexity of some skills might repel specific individuals who are unwilling to try.
  • Derivation from Eastern religious values may contradict some people’s beliefs.


Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based program that plays a significant role in drug rehab and addiction recovery. It helps numerous people get rid of self-harming behaviors. It also allows them to gain a fresh skill set to improve the quality of their lives.Thus, any struggling addicts going through recovery should seek help and support through therapies like DBT.

Published on: 2023-05-02
Updated on: 2024-04-08