What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy? How is it Different from CBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used to treat substance abuse and mental health disorders. DBT was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder but it has been adapted to treat other conditions as well. Because DBT is one of the therapies we use at Acceptance Recovery Center, we want our clients to understand what it entails and how it can support the recovery journey.

History of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT was developed in the 1980s by Dr. Marsha Linehan and colleagues when they discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was not effective enough on its own for some people. Dr. Linehan and her team developed a new treatment to help these individuals.

A key part of this treatment was the use of dialectics, a concept that everything is composed of opposites and that change occurs when there is communication between the two opposing sides. DBT also makes the following assumptions:

  • All things are interconnected
  • Change is constant and inevitable
  • Opposites can be integrated to get closer to the truth

So how does this play out in dialectical behavior therapy? And how can this type of therapy support you or a loved one going through addiction recovery? Let’s find out!

How DBT Works

DBT has emerged into an evidence-based psychotherapy that treats many conditions. It is used in various settings including:

  • Group settings. Clients are taught behavioral skills by completing homework assignments and role playing new ways of interacting with others.
  • Individual therapy. Here clients meet individually with a therapist to learn behavioral skills and apply them to their personal life challenges.
  • Telehealth. Clients can call their therapist in between sessions to receive guidance on coping with difficult situations.

DBT is versatile and can be used in various settings, as you see above. Each therapeutic setting has its own goals that you’ll work on. Some of the things you might do include:

  • Recognize your positive strengths and attributes
  • Learn new skills to enhance your capabilities
  • Communicate effectively and work as a team with others
  • Learn to accept and tolerate life circumstances
  • Learn to analyze problems or destructive behavioral problems
  • Focus on changing harmful thoughts and beliefs

What are Some Common DBT Strategies?

The main purpose of dialectical behavior therapy is to change certain behaviors. By making these changes, you can be a stronger individual who recognizes their strengths and knows how to manage stressful situations without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Here are the four main strategies that you’ll use to accomplish this.

Core mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. This helps you pay attention to what’s going on inside you and makes sure that your needs are met. By doing this, you can avoid impulsive behaviors, negative thought patterns and relapse.

Distress tolerance

Distress tolerance encourages you to accept yourself and your current situation. In doing so, you can develop a healthier attitude and more realistic expectations that set you up for success. Some of the strategies you’ll use include distraction, self-soothing and improving the moment.

Interpersonal effectiveness

For those who struggle to be assertive in their relationships, interpersonal effectiveness is a good skill to learn. It focuses on helping you become more assertive while keeping your relationships happy. For example, you can explain yourself without attacking or judging others.

Emotion regulation

Lastly, emotion regulation lets you manage powerful feelings more effectively. You’ll learn to identify and name your feelings so that you can cope in a healthy manner.

How is DBT Different from CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are two popular methods for treating mental health and substance use disorders. DBT is a modified form of CBT, so there is some overlap. However, there are enough differences to make these two therapies distinct from one another.

The main difference between CBT and DBT is that CBT helps clients recognize and change harmful behaviors, whereas DBT helps clients regulate intense emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. When choosing which therapy is best, there are a few things to take into consideration.

For example, research has shown that CBT is the more effective treatment for treating depression, anxiety, OCD and phobias. Borderline personality disorder and self-harm behaviors are best treated with DBT. Also, the individual client must be taken into consideration, as some people respond better to one therapy over the other.

Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Right for You?

When you are admitted into Acceptance Recovery Center, DBT is a type of therapy that we may recommend depending on your diagnosis and needs. All clients receive individualized treatment, so you can expect your treatment plan to be tailored to your exact needs. We can also change and modify it as needed.

Here are some of the disorders DBT treats effectively:

  • ADHD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts/self-harm
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse

Start Your Journey to Healing at Acceptance Recovery Center

Acceptance Recovery Center offers dialectical behavior therapy to help our clients effectively cope with their conditions, react to stress constructively and deal with issues in a calm and non-impulsive manner. These are long-term skills that come in handy in the real world, especially as you transition to your normal routine following a recovery program.

To learn more about DBT or any of our other therapies, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today. We offer free, confidential assessments and accept most insurance plans.