The Importance of DBT in Substance Abuse Treatment

The Importance of DBT in Substance Abuse Treatment

DBT. Ah, the elusive acronym. Ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation nodding your head along to phrases like “Send a QFE to the BCD, ASAP, will ya?” 


Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the feeling remains. Before we agree to do something, we’d like to get our heads around that something first. That’s human nature. 


And before you commit to the specifics of a substance abuse treatment program, you’ll likely want to understand what you can expect. So we’re here to break down another important acronym for you: DBT. 


We’ll talk about what DBT is, why it pairs so well with substance abuse treatment and how you might benefit from the process. No need to nod your head in agreement just yet.


Instead, read on. 


What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. DBT falls under the umbrella of another important substance abuse treatment acronym: CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


Treatment using CBT considers the fact that our thoughts dictate our emotions, and our emotions encourage our actions. Therefore, therapists and patients spend most of their energy on maintaining a healthy thought life. 


DBT, on the other hand, encourages patients to focus on emotions—both good and bad—and learn to manage them as a means of creating better habits and a holistic lifestyle. This focus, as Recovery Answers explains, “provides individuals with the skills that help them tolerate distress, improve emotion regulation capacity, and cultivate mindfulness.”  


DBT Pairs Well with Substance Abuse Treatment. Here’s Why: 

The DBT treatment model offers two key benefits for people hoping to shake an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

1. DBT helps people to balance the tension between change and acceptance. 

Research shows us the power of this push and pull. After all, getting sober requires a major change, doesn’t it? A person must cut himself off from his substance of choice and find other ways to spend his time and money. Depending on the level of addiction, this can end up becoming a massive endeavor. 


At the same time, a person must learn to accept so many things that they cannot change—an especially trying task when we consider that outside forces often drive the thoughts, emotions and actions that lead to substance abuse. 


DBT encourages patients to sit in this uncomfortable tension. First to be okay with it and then, as they are able, to take control over it. 


2. DBT offers a pragmatic approach to tackling tough emotions. 

Controlling the balance between change and acceptance requires a person to be realistic in their expectations. As a result, patients and therapists alike know that growth is possible and setbacks are likely, so they should account for and plan for both. 


This planning takes place through four distinct models: mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. The first three are mostly self-explanatory, and the final model consists of learning to engage with others in a way that respects all parties involved—yourself included. 

These simple tools cannot be overstated in the ability to reach recovery. 


The Biggest Thing You’ll Gain from DBT

The National Institute of Health states that a successful DBT program helps a person learn to “envision, articulate, pursue, and sustain goals that are independent of his or her history of out-of-control behavior, including substance abuse, and is better able to grapple with life’s ordinary problems.” All toward the goal of “building a life worth living.” 


Hear, hear! You can go ahead and give us that nod now if you like.

At The Right Step Houston, we believe that we can help you learn how to effectively manage your substance use disorder. We are here to help you thrive without the cycle of substances through evidence-based, structured treatment models.,

For more information about our programs and how we can support you on the path to hope and healing, call us today at (844) 767-9404.



By Stephanie Thomas

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