The goal of any treatment is to help the patient in their effort to build a life that they feel is worth living and encourage their feeling of self-worth. The idea behind dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is to create a dynamic that promotes the two opposing goals of change and acceptance.
By helping the patient change and accept what has happened in their past, they can move forward with greater ease and accept their new “normal.” This also balances the patient’s desire to eliminate all painful experiences and accept life’s inevitable pain.
How DBT is used in addiction counselling
DBT has typically been used to treat patients who suffer from multiple severe psychosocial disorders and those who are chronically suicidal. DBT has been also designed to promote abstinence from drug and alcohol use and to reduce the length and impact of possible relapses. In addiction counselling, DBT teaches patients to envision, articulate, pursue and sustain the goals they have set in treatment.
For typical drug users, using drugs and alcohol aims to mask pain, forget all past negative experiences, and numb themselves. Through the use of DBT, the therapist works with the client to tackle these issues head on and accept that they have happened.
They then work together to develop coping skills, mindfulness training, and distraction techniques that allow the patient to cope with these thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. DBT allows the patient to work on building a sense of who they really are when they are sober.
DBT has introduced a new way to treat those who suffer from addiction and has shed new light on the concept of therapy for this group of people. DBT allows patients to recognize and accept what has happened to them in the past and to move forward. DBT provides long lasting solutions to those who can accept that life is not always positive and that you need to face what has occurred to you.
This post was co-written by Sue Cook and Robin Chapman.
For more information on DBT and Addiction, see The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook: Practical DBT exercises for Learning Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Emotion Regulation and Distress Tolerance (Matthew McKay, Jeffrey C. Wood, Jeffrey Brantley).