Is Dialectical-Based Therapy the Right Treatment for My Substance Abuse Disorder?

When deciding to enter recovery, there are a lot of options to choose from. There are 12-step programs and  SMART recovery programs, and you can also choose the therapy that works best to meet your needs. Among the many therapeutic choices is dialectical-based therapy (DBT).

What Is Dialectical-Based Therapy?

DBT is a therapy originally designed to treat suicidal ideation and borderline personality disorder (BPD). According to a study published in Psychiatry, it has been very effective in treating BPD. Although, it is now being used to treat other disorders.

How Does It Work?

According to Psychiatry, "DBT is a comprehensive treatment program consisting of individual therapy, group therapy, and a therapist consultation team." DBT also relies on what is referred to as the five functions of treatment. The five functions are:

  1. Enhancing capabilities
  2. Generalizing capabilities
  3. Improving motivation and reducing dysfunctional behaviors
  4. Enhancing and maintaining therapist capabilities and motivation
  5. Structuring the environment

All these functions work together to help empower you to overcome disorders affecting you.

How Does This Apply to Substance Use Disorder? 

While DBT was designed to treat suicidal ideation and BPD, it is also used to treat substance use disorder. The same basic principles and functions apply. When treating substance use disorder, the goal is to: 

  • Eliminate cravings and triggers 
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships 
  • Overcome the behaviors that lead to substance abuse

Dialectical-based therapy can be described as "muscle memory" therapy because DBT helps you overcome troubling thoughts, behaviors, and habits and teaches you to cope with new, healthier habits.

Creating Healthier Habits

Creating healthier ways to cope with your triggers requires patience and persistence. For example, consider that you are managing a cocaine addiction and are having a lot of trouble overcoming triggers and want to use substances no matter what you do. Instead of becoming agitated and lashing out at people, DBT will help you overcome this response. 

DBT can be incorporated into group, and individual therapy settings; talking through your emotions with a therapist or peers will help you identify the root of your addiction. When you know the source, you can work to overcome the trigger. Different ways you can overcome a trigger might include: 

  • Taking a walk
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breathwork
  • Exercise
  • Writing in a journal
  • Calling on friends, family, and peers

Every time you feel triggered, you will participate in an activity that is good for your health and mental health. Over time, your brain will eventually correlate that trigger with something healthy. Therefore, it creates new muscle memory.

Rewire the Brain

This muscle memory has been shown to have a longer-lasting effect and a stronger neuro pathway. What this means is that the pathways in your brain are harder to deviate from. This means it is harder for you to relapse because your brain is starting to rewire itself against addictive behavior.      

Are There Other Options?

The short answer is yes. There are lots of other therapy options out there. There is motivational enhancement therapy, contingency management, and the most popular, cognitive-based therapy (CBT). 

What Is CBT?

CBT is a form of therapy that relies primarily on counseling. Talking to a therapist and attending group meetings are the types of things seen in CBT. This, you can tell, is different from DBT. That is not to say that one is better than the other; it is just that different people require different approaches to therapy.

According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, the study showed that there is no one therapy that performs better than the other. 

Which Is the Right One for Me?

That is not always an easy question to answer. Everyone is different, and everyone's mind works differently, which means there is no way to say which approach to therapy is better than the other. It requires thorough diagnosis, education, and different treatment approaches to determine if DBT is a form of therapy that you will benefit from.  

The great thing is that you do not have to commit to one therapy if you feel it is not working for you. The ultimate goal is your happiness, and if a program is not helping you improve your life, then maybe it is not the right therapy for you. There is no shame in that, and no one should be mad if you have to change therapy styles. 

Remember, managing your addiction and mental well-being is a lifelong process, so finding the best care to suit your needs might take some time. You will always be moving forward if you put your health first.

Choosing the right therapy for your recovery can be a challenging process. However, DBT is a great way to overcome the difficulties of substance use disorder. Still, knowing the right treatment center to go to for help can be difficult. There are many options, but you want to choose the one that is best for you and will help set you on the path to a successful recovery. Luckily, there are professionals who are here for you. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO., can be the place to find that help. Our years of experience will help tailor a treatment plan to meet your individual needs. The goal is to set you up for success and sustain long-term sobriety. If you or a loved one needs help, get help today. To find out more about our programs, please reach out to us by calling (303) 558-6400

Search Blog Posts
Back to blog
Call 866-407-2240
Verify Insurance