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Opening Up to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

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Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is an effective approach to treating both addiction and mental health disorders. Its malleable approach to each unique situation allows it to be personalized for each individual’s needs. 

Taking the first step toward treatment and recovery is intimidating. Understanding the modalities of DBT, its intentions, and its practices is instrumental when deconstructing any barriers that may surround recovery. This can open an individual to the truly transformative practices of a dedicated treatment program. 

What Is DBT?

DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder before it was quickly broadened to treat a variety of other needs. As an extension of cognitive-behavioral therapy, the two work together to create a personalized approach to therapeutic practices. By helping an individual live in the present moment and recognize their current emotional state, an individual can then better control their emotions and responses to turmoil. 

DBT allows individuals to do the following:

  • practice grounding strategies for emotional regulation
  • identifying and replacing self-destructive behaviors with healthy new outlets
  • managing mental health disorders
  • coping with urges and cravings
  • managing trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • creating a healthy, positive mindset to pursue personal goals

The Forms of DBT

There is no one, single way in which DBT is implemented. Rather, it can be customized to fit an individual’s needs. For some, DBT is an integral part of group therapy, working alongside professionals and peers alike to challenge unhealthy thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors. This makes it possible to create a healthier lifestyle that thrives in the present moment, rather than dwelling on difficult emotions or past experiences. 

This approach also promotes the development of important interpersonal skills. Although, others may engage with dedicated DBT practices in an individual therapy setting, working directly with a professional while being guided through effective and personalized techniques. 

The Various Aspects of DBT

DBT accomplishes a number of goals depending on the individual, focusing on creating new perspectives, mentalities, and coping skills. These goals cover a variety of aspects of daily life.

  • Acceptance: Embracing strategies to help an individual live in the current moment and see the reality of their current emotional state or situation. By identifying where a person is in their experiences and journey, they can then create the necessary change. 
  • Behavioral: Identifying self-destructive or counter-productive behaviors in an individual’s life that may compromise their other goals, and replacing these behaviors with more positive alternatives.
  • Cognitive: Identifying self-destructive thoughts and beliefs that may inhibit a person’s ability to make a sustained change or is otherwise detrimental to their mental health and recovery efforts. 
  • Collaboration: Learning skills to work alongside others and develop effective communication strategies for conveying needs, goals, strengths, and difficulties in daily life.
  • Support: Learning to identify positive strengths in others, as well as within one’s self, to create a more supportive, positive sense of self and community. 

While talk therapy is a common way for trained professionals to guide an individual through various techniques, DBT is also used in tandem with experiential modalities. This makes it a versatile approach and able to be communicated in a wide variety of ways. 

DBT in Practice

DBT is practiced in many ways, with the most prominent goals being emotional regulation, distress tolerance, core mindfulness, and interpersonal skills. 

Emotional Regulation

DBT does not attempt to discount or push down negative emotions, but rather empowers individuals to feel and process them in a healthy, dedicated manner. By being able to recognize the presence of all emotions, individuals can better understand how these intense emotions impact their overall thoughts and behaviors. This allows them to make a more informed decision about how to act or process them, putting the agency back in the hands of the individual. 

By identifying and processing these emotions in a healthy way, an individual can mitigate self-destructive behaviors and manage their own emotional state. This also helps to process urges, cravings, and other effects of substance use disorder. 

Distress Tolerance

Stress is a constant part of life with many sources, from interpersonal relationships to mental health disorders and professional workplaces. DBT embraces techniques to acknowledge and process these stressors safely, either through personalized distraction techniques or self-soothing and self-care strategies. 

Core Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of the connection between an individual’s body and mind. DBT embraces many mindfulness practices in order to facilitate this awareness. Using breathing techniques and their core senses can all situate an individual in the present moment, even in the midst of trying emotions. By allowing the body and mind to slow down and process intense feelings or impulses, an individual can best cope with these stresses while remaining cognizant of their inherent emotional responses. 

Interpersonal Skills

Working alongside others is a crucial part of recovery. Learning to manage and foster communication skills with loved ones and handle unhealthy influences are core parts of maintaining a healthy transformation throughout recovery and beyond.

DBT is just one form of therapy available to you at Pacific Sands Recovery Center. We are prepared to not only personalize your therapeutic approaches but also combine unique modalities to create a recovery plan that is right for you. We champion the idea that each individual is in control of their own sober future, and professionals and peers alike all work together to create a comfortable, safe, and supportive environment for you to pursue your unique needs and goals in sobriety. We can further personalize your time with us through medication-assisted treatment, experiential therapies, and much more, adapting strategies to meet your needs from detox through residential and outpatient programs. For more information on how we can make your program as individualized as possible, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique needs, goals, and concerns, call us today at (714) 492-1119.

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