Dialectical Behavior Therapy

To treat addiction and its underlying causes, Journey’s multidisciplinary team employs a number of therapeutic techniques, including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT was created in the 1990s by Marsha Linehan, a therapist and researcher seeking better treatment techniques to manage people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). Hallmarks of this disorder are unstable and intense emotions, including profound lows with suicidal thoughts. People diagnosed with BPD can be difficult for therapists to treat, as medications are rarely helpful and many therapy techniques seem to make the condition worse. Watching people suffer and feeling that therapy wasn’t helping, Linehan developed DBT. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

Key Components of DBT

Considered a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT identifies thoughts that give rise to emotions that lead to behaviors. However, given the intensity of emotions often experienced by people struggling with BPD and other mental health disorders, Linehan worked on helping people “tone down” the intensity through specific practices. DBT balances support with demand, helping people feel heard and supported in their struggles with overwhelming emotions while also receiving guidance and structure for reining in those feelings and regaining control.

The four key components of DBT include:

  • Mindfulness: Borrowed from Buddhist meditation practices, mindfulness is the foundation for all DBT techniques. Mindfulness involves staying in the present, rather than ruminating about what might have been or worrying about what the future will bring. Sometimes mindfulness is explained as simply paying attention—by paying attention to the smallest things, such as the quality of your breathing, you gain the ability to stop experiencing your emotions as so compelling and powerful.
  • Emotional regulation: Once you’ve begun to practice mindfulness, you can begin to incorporate additional techniques, such as emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is best understood as becoming a student of your own emotions. DBT teaches skills and techniques for managing your emotions, including naming and scaling them, and provides insight into how powerful emotions are triggered.
  • Interpersonal relationship effectiveness: For someone whose emotional responses are always pegged at 11, interacting with other people can be a minefield. DBT includes clear and structured training in the basics of interpersonal communication—making requests, saying no, advocating for yourself and managing conflict.
  • Distress tolerance: A key aspect of DBT involves learning to tolerate unpleasant or unwanted emotions, rather than immediately taking action to get rid of them. For some people in early recovery, a powerful negative emotion can feel unbearable. Almost anything—including using drugs or alcohol—can seem like a better option than continuing to feel that particular emotional pain. Tolerating distress is an important part of life and therapy. Learning that a strong negative emotion can be experienced and released is a key DBT lesson. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

DBT is geared toward helping people who have a tendency to experience their emotions as overwhelming emergencies. In early recovery, intense cravings for drugs combined with a storm of emotions can feel almost life threatening. DBT offers tools for managing strong emotions and cravings and restoring a sense of control and equilibrium. Instead of getting lost and falling overboard into the sea of pure feeling, DBT helps you stay on deck and steer, despite the intensity of the storm.