DBT and Addiction Recovery

When you are beginning your addiction recovery journey, you may wonder which type of therapy is right for you. One type of psychotherapy developed using the principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). CBT places a focus on helping the person recognize certain behaviors and learn how to change these. Whereas, DBT takes a different approach by focusing on dialectics, acceptance, and validation. So how do DBT and addiction recovery work?

Dialectics is the process of investigating and discussing one’s opinions and the truth behind them. It is used to help the person gain insight into their thought processes that made them form the opinions in the first place.

Acceptance and validation incorporate ideas that everything is connected and change is ongoing from the time we are born until the day we die. These concepts also include the ideology that people with opposing views can be brought together harmoniously through understanding and tolerance. 

How Is DBT Helpful Compared to CBT?

CBT and DBT share several similarities in the methods used to help people with a wide range of mental health conditions and disorders, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Depression 

One of the distinguishing features of DBT is that it places a higher level of optimism on the potential outcomes than CBT. Another way that DBT is different from CBT is by making the following assumptions:

  • People want to improve their situation.
  • People willing to improve their situation are capable of learning new behaviors to bring about the changes and improvements in their lives they desire. 
  • It is the person’s responsibility to try to resolve problems, even when they are not entirely their fault.
  • People do the best that they can do given their current circumstances and situations. 
  • Undesirable behaviors and thoughts are learned through reinforcement but can be unlearned. 
  • People that exhibit self-destructive behaviors and thoughts lack the skills needed to solve their problems.

Keeping these assumptions in mind, DBT utilizes various coping skills and exercises to help unlearn the undesired behaviors and thoughts, such as one would struggle with when addicted to alcohol or drugs.  

Dialectical Behavior Therapy as Part of Addiction Treatment Programs

DBT employs various methods to bring about the desired changes during addiction treatment. Each of these methods shares the same objective – providing the recovering addict with the skills to help them develop a healthy mind to replace the self-destructive behaviors and thoughts caused by the addiction. 

Teaching the person how to replace those behaviors and thoughts with skills and coping mechanisms will bring about positive and productive change, and the self-destructive behaviors will gradually go away.

DBT Methods Used for Addiction Treatment

Every recovery addict will respond differently to DBT methods depending on their own unique circumstances. However, these specific DBT methods have been beneficial for people struggling with substance abuse disorders and co-occurring conditions:

Emotional Regulation

Managing emotions is a key component of emotional regulation. This method involves developing an understanding of one’s own emotions, how those emotions can make one feel vulnerable, and how to reduce emotional suffering. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness helps develop skills for effective and positive communications with others. It also teaches us how to balance our priorities, nurture our relationships, and live fuller and happier lives. 

Distress Tolerance

Everyone faces distressing situations in their life. For the addict, the way they deal with these situations is by turning to alcohol or drugs. Distress tolerance helps recovering addicts learn how to deal with these situations in a more manageable manner while reaching a tolerable emotional state rather than turning to alcohol or drugs. and 


Mindfulness refers to teaching the person in recovery how to become more aware of their environment to be more engaged. The purpose is to get the addict to focus on what is occurring now rather than drifting off and concentrating on their past or worrying about tomorrow. It also helps them learn how to view their feelings and thoughts more impartially and unbiased.  

The Objective of Dialectical Behavior Therapy as Part of Addiction Treatment Programs

There are four objectives of DBT for addiction treatment

  1. To learn how to go from feeling isolated and alone to feeling connected with others.
  2. Discovering how to build a healthy and sober life to be able to tackle problems in a productive manner.
  3. Retaking control of their addiction and stop letting it control them and their actions. 
  4. To learn to use effective coping skills to regulate and manage emotions

DBT and Addiction Rehab in Los Angeles

New Life House believes that young adults should be provided access to a range of addiction rehab treatment options like DBT through our partnered clinical services in Los Angeles. When you are ready to get help for your loved one’s addiction, contact us today.

Our facilities provide the support young men struggling with substance abuse need to regain control over their lives. We provide a happy, safe, healthy, caring, supportive, and sober living environment, free from distractions. This allows them to develop a life-long support system and bond with other recovering men their own age while achieving long-lasting success in recovery.

Last Updated on February 21, 2024


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