Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an extension of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Originally developed to treat people with borderline personality disorders, it has been shown to be effective in addressing a number of other disorders, including addiction to drugs and alcohol and substance abuse disorder. Its primary focus is the development of the skills necessary to maintain functionality and sobriety.

At Avery Lane, DBT starts by recognizing that people often come to addiction and substance misuse from backgrounds where they did not receive the love and acceptance necessary for them to learn to love and accept themselves. In fact, this is particularly true for women. Most women dealing with addiction report significant traumatic events in their past, often in the form of abusive relationships. The nonjudgmental acceptance promoted by DBT gives them the love and support needed to develop the skills necessary for long-term recovery.

DBT Skills

DBT is provided through a mixture of individual and group therapy sessions. Four primary groups of skills are taught that help people address their addiction:

Mindfulness: Learning to be mindful involves a focus on the present moment. Women dealing with addiction are often burdened by guilt from the past and anxiety about the future. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy teaches women how to set aside these concerns that are beyond their control. This allows them to focus on the present moment and, in doing so, they learn to step back and analyze their feelings in a nonjudgmental manner.

“DBTDistress Tolerance: Learning to tolerate distress helps women cope with uncomfortable emotions. Many women have become addicted because they use drugs and alcohol to squelch emotional pain. Distress tolerance training helps them learn to deal with distress without resorting to substances. They discover how to accept uncomfortable situations and feelings in a nonjudgmental way instead of immediately trying to escape them. This is often accomplished by learning to discover meaning in the present moment.

Emotional Self-regulation: DBT helps women at Avery Lane develop the skills needed to regulate their own emotions. It is the dialectical counterpart to distress tolerance. While distress tolerance helps women with addiction cope with their emotions, self-regulation allows them to acknowledge, label, and change those emotions. By deconstructing emotional pathways, women at Avery Lane learn to recognize the root cause of each individual emotion, which in turn helps them change their emotional state in the present and prevent destructive emotional responses in the future.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: A final set of skills developed in DBT are those relating to interpersonal relationships. Women in treatment at Avery Lane learn how to set boundaries, how to say “no,” and how to ask for what they need from their family and friends.