Addiction can be crippling for the person and everyone around them. It is important to speak with qualified medical professionals, so you can start living a healthier life. Dialectical behavior therapy DBT allows for long-term sobriety and a stronger state of mind.

How does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy). This approach comes from the idea that some people react to emotional stress more intensely. DBT’s emotional regulation technique tries to tone down these intense arousal levels found in addicts and other mental health conditions such as eating disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders or binge eating disorder.

Dialectical behavior therapy is a very effective way to treat borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that centers on the inability to manage emotions effectively. Emotional swings caused by borderline personality disorder are prevalent and can be hard to control. DBT teaches certain skills and helps the person cope with these swings. Dialectical behavior therapy works the same way toward addiction causes and triggers.

There are many aspects of someone’s life that might cause emotional stressors. Family, relationships, and childhood memories can all be causes of intense reactions, and negative consequences may result in these problematic behaviors and reactions. Dialectical behavior therapy helps the person cope with these triggers and understand the skills necessary to deal with them.

substance abuse patient with DBT therapist

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Components

There are several different techniques and components that are used during dialectical behavior therapy. These techniques are used by DBT therapists to help the person understand the root of their issues while working to cope with them. The same components are used for treating addiction.


Dialectical behavior therapy helps a person understand their inner strength and builds on them. Positive self-image and overall confidence are both crucial to overcoming alcohol or drug addiction. By improving one’s self-image, the individual can take control of their life and work towards a better life, knowing they deserve it.


Dialectical behavior therapy helps pinpoint some of the negative emotions a person may be feeling. In many cases, people are too critical of themselves with assumptions that make life harder. The cognitive-based approach helps a person understand these thoughts and helps them learn healthy coping skills.

During addiction treatment, DBT works to change a person’s frame of mind. A person’s thoughts can be negative and intense during recovery. It is important to reframe these negative thoughts towards a more positive outlook for long-term recovery and a healthy state of mind through different techniques.


Dialectical behavior therapy is a collaborative process that starts with a strong relationship between the person and a DBT therapist. DBT is most effective when a good foundation has been set. During the process, a person will find interpersonal effectiveness skills through group skills training, practice skills, and complete personalized ‘homework assignments’ in the process.

Throughout the process, a therapist will be by your side every step of the way. Together, you’ll be able to master useful techniques through DBT skills training to cope with emotional stressors caused by addiction. With the right frame of mind and support by your side, you can slowly begin to leave the life of addiction behind you.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Session Breakdown

Dialectical behavior therapy programs work through weekly sessions (both individual and group). These sessions cover different aspects of substance use disorders and help you learn skills and techniques during the process. Behavioral Health Centers offers passionate therapists that are ready to help you on your journey to recovery.

patient undergoing DBT for substance abuse

Individual Psychotherapy Sessions

During a dialectical behavior therapy program, a person will meet with their therapist or counselor on a weekly basis. In these individual therapy sessions, the person will be able to discuss the past week’s problems or other issues in their life. If someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts or harmful behaviors, then they are a top priority.

These sessions help to deal with life’s issues while trying to improve on habits and stressors. In cases of addiction, it is important to discuss certain substance use triggers and emotional reactions when things get rough (while learning to deal with them). These DBT sessions also focus on self-image and confidence for the future.

Group Therapy Sessions

Weekly group therapy sessions are usually around 2 and a half hours and are led by a qualified DBT therapist. In these group-based sessions, you’ll learn a number of different skills including emotion regulation skills, mindfulness skills, distress tolerance skills and other DBT skills.

Verify Your Insurance

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.

Verify Your Insurance

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.

4 Modules of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical Behavior Therapy uses 4 different modules for treatment. Each covers a different aspect of a person’s emotional and mental state.


Mindfulness looks at observing, describing, and participating. Mindfulness helps to answer the questions, ‘why and how do I practice core mindfulness skills”

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness looks at how a person interacts with the people around them. DBT coping skills training requires one to be assertive but mindful in relationships with friends and family. In cases of alcohol abuse or drug abuse, being assertive and having self-respect is crucial to staying sober and healthy. In the case of addicts, there may be situations that require you to say ‘no’ or to ask someone to do something. This can be an important part of staying sober and clean in the future. Interpersonal treatment programs teach a person these skills so they can get the most out of situations while maintaining respect.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation helps the person label and deal with intense negative emotions and destructive behaviors. Grappling these emotions and controlling them can make a huge difference in the long run for addicts. There may be signs of anger, depression, or anxiety when not using them, these are completely normal.

This skills training helps a person deal with these emotions in a healthy and effective way. It uses a number of DBT techniques and skills to help grapple these intense emotions. Dialectical behavior therapy uses the following new skills to regulate emotion:

  • Understanding obstacles when changing emotions
  • Accurately identifying and labeling emotions
  • Using distress tolerance tips and techniques
  • Reducing an ‘emotion mind’
  • Encouraging positive emotional events

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance during DBT focuses on accepting and managing distress. Other forms of mental health treatment try to change distressing events. On the contrary, this specific DBT training helps a person understand and accept the situation for what it is.

The person learns to accept these moments in a nonjudgmental and non-evaluative way. Accepting distress can be very effective in dealing with cases of addiction. Understanding that you have substance use disorder and taking it at face value can make a big difference in the long run.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy For Substance Abuse in Florida

Dialectical behavior therapy is a very effective tool for helping addicts deal with their emotions and cravings. While DBT alone will not be able to fully ‘cure’ addiction, it is very effective with other substance abuse treatment options.

After taking the first step towards breaking free of addiction, it’s important to have the right frame of mind. To avoid relapses down the road and handle intense cravings, DBT allows the behavioral skills needed to cope with these urges and navigate the world around you.

patient with substance use disorder undergoing DBT therapy with a licensed mental health professional

Other Substance Abuse Treatment Options

Dialectical behavior therapy is just one of the many treatment options for substance use disorders. At Behavioral Health Centers, we provide a number of different options to complement DBT including cognitive behavioral treatment and EMDR. With a passionate staff and a high-quality facility, Behavioral Health Centers will be by your side every step of the way.

Detoxification (Detox)

Detoxification is usually the first step towards addiction recovery. Detox rids the body of substances and alcohol. The primary goal of detox is to deter some of the harsh withdrawal symptoms of addiction. After detox, the individual can move on to therapy options like dialectical behavior therapy for continued treatment.

Inpatient Addiction Treatment (Residential Treatment)

Inpatient treatment offers intense care for those with moderate to severe cases of substance use disorders or co-occurring mental health issues. Inpatient treatment typically provides housing and access to medical professionals at all times. Dialectical behavior therapy is just one of the many therapy options available at Behavioral Health Centers’ inpatient program.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Outpatient treatment is similar to inpatient treatment but without the residential part of it. Outpatient treatment is more convenient and is great for moderate cases of substance use disorders. If you have prior obligations at home, outpatient treatment allows for weekly visits.

During these visits, you will have a selection of different treatment options which include counseling, support groups, and our current topic, dialectical behavior therapy. Behavioral Health Centers is accommodating and ready to meet your needs towards recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Our rehab center offers a comprehensive treatment program for co-occurring disorders or those seeking addiction treatment with mental health disorders. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is proven effective for co-occurring disorders.

Get Help Today!

If you are concerned that a loved one or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, Behavioral Health Centers may be able to help. Dialectical behavior therapy is just one of the many treatment options we provide. Find out if DBT is an effective treatment for you or a loved one today.

Contact us or visit our website to learn more about our drug or alcohol addiction treatment options.

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Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

Get Help Today

Don’t go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you’re facing. Get in touch with one today.

Check Insurance

If you have coverage of any kind from a major insurance provider, your treatment is likely covered. We promise to keep your information confidential.