Dialectical Behavioral Therapy


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of psychotherapy that was developed for people who feel emotions very intensely. It is based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and while it’s a common treatment for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, it’s been approved as a treatment method for other mental illnesses. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy addresses the behaviors that accompany maladaptive coping mechanisms like an addiction. Through psychotherapy and skills training, DBT sessions at Recovery in Motion create a safe environment for residents to practice mindfulness, social skills, and how to manage their emotions. The goal of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy sessions is to replace destructive patterns of behavior with constructive alternatives.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy works in four stages of treatment. The overall goal of DBT is to help you rebuild your life and move forward in a life you’re proud of. To accomplish this, each stage of treatment is a smaller goal.

Each week you’ll meet with a group where you’ll learn skills that will help you enhance your emotional management abilities. Some of these skills include mindfulness exercises, working through difficult situations without changing them, advocating for yourself in a healthy and productive way, and self-regulating your emotions.

You will also participate in individual therapy sessions so that you maintain your motivation for healing. You will get weekly feedback on how you’re applying your new skills in your daily life. This is meant as a motivator and a way to hold yourself accountable for your recovery. The therapists at Recovery in Motion are available whenever possible in order to guide our clients when they need it most.

When you are ready, your therapist will transition control over your DBT healing to you. They will only intervene as necessary but you regain control over practicing healthy coping mechanisms and can take a more active role in your healing.

The four stages of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy range from Stage 1 where you feel powerless over your addiction to Stage 4 where you occasionally engage with structured DBT sessions but the majority of your healing is in how you continually practice recovery in real-life situations. Everyone moves through these stages in their own time, there are no prescribed timelines for each stage.


Stage 1

It can feel agonizing and hopeless to feel trapped in a life that’s out of your control. In the first stage of DBT, we address the immediate, life-threatening behaviors that lead to substance abuse. This includes the small habits that lead to more serious issues of substance use, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. When you feel hopeless and helpless, it’s more common to sabotage your own treatment and neglect therapy sessions or lash out at your therapist.

Stage 1 aims to curb your destructive behaviors and stabilize you so that you can make progress in other methods of therapy. The first step is to introduce techniques for managing your emotions.


Stage 2

After you are stabilized and no longer using self-destructive behaviors, Stage 2 of Dialectcal Behavioral Therapy focuses on your emotions. Even when your behaviors are more under control, you might still feel desperate or hopeless. Trauma may have caused you to build emotional walls that keep you from feeling a full range of emotions. It’s common for people to suppress their emotions and with DBT, you can begin feeling again in a safe environment.

At this level, we can help you treat psychological disorders such as PTSD as you practice the behavioral skills you learned in Stage 1. As you progress through treatment, you’ll find that you become more motivated and committed to the treatment process and that a life free of drugs and alcohol is possible.


Stage 3

Once you have stabilized your behaviors and your mental health is improving, Stage 3 of dialectical behavioral therapy introduces more skills for personal emotion management along with guidelines for how and when to use them. The goal in Stage 3 is to create a daily life where you can experience the full range of emotions without feeling concerned about triggers or your reactions to strong emotions.

In this stage, you will create a clear life path and series of goals that will help you reach the life you want. You’ll set attainable goals to reach achievements, develop love and respect for yourself, and find things that regularly make you feel happy and peaceful. You will learn how to participate in life and the world around you in a healthy way.


Stage 4

Some people are occasionally able to find happiness and fulfillment after Stage 3. If you move onto Stage 4, you have the opportunity to keep working on the skills you’ve developed and then expand your capacity to experience freedom, love, and joy.

The key to ongoing contentment is often spiritual fulfillment. Stage 4 of DBT is an opportunity for you and your therapists to explore deeper meaning in your life by strengthening your spirit. Some ways to do this are by serving your community or volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, or strengthening your relationship with a higher power in ways that connect you to the world around you. This could mean joining a group who align with your spiritual beliefs or connecting with nature by taking hikes. Stage 4 helps you reconnect with the world around you, find your place in it, and discover a sense of purpose in your life and healing journey.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy approaches addiction and behavior differently from other treatments because it targets the effects that addiction and mental health have on each other.

DBT does not condemn you for the events or issues that lead you to seek substance abuse treatment. Instead, it’s a therapeutic approach that operates with the understanding that you are doing the best you can with the symptoms that you’re struggling with. Instead of condemning destructive behaviors, it teaches you how to recognize them and replace them with constructive behaviors.

The DBT treatment program at Recovery in Motion is organized to address your most severe behavioral concerns first so you can stabilize your health and well-being. As you progress, you will feel more and more empowered with the knowledge you gain and the skills you learn. You will find that your mind becomes clear and free from the cloudiness of addiction.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy encourages you to accept yourself as you are and to set goals to achieve happiness. The valuable skills you learn will help you to stay motivated and heal while practicing mindfulness, learning how to tolerate stress, and creating the happy life that you’ve always wanted.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and may benefit from dialectical behavioral therapy, give us a call today. Our therapists are skilled at tailoring individual programs to our patients’ individual needs for the best possible results.