Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT for Addiction

When it comes to overcoming a substance abuse problem or a mental health disorder, clients will likely go through many different forms of addiction therapy and treatment during their time. One of the most commonly used forms of treatment is dialectical behavior therapy.

Let’s take a closer look at dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and how it may be able to help those dealing with a substance use disorder or mental health problem such as borderline personality disorder.

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy and is an evidence-based treatment method that was originally developed as a treatment for suicidal women, it has since evolved to help with a number of different problems including borderline personality disorder, dual diagnosis, and substance abuse treatment.

Randomized clinical trials have shown that dialectical behavior therapy is an effective form of treatment against borderline personality disorder as well as other related issues such as a substance abuse treatment method. 

If you are interested in DBT for addiction or mental health treatment, contact Renaissance Recovery and learn how you can get the process started today.

Table of Contents

History of DBT

Dialectical behavior therapy was a treatment that evolved from Marsha Linehan’s research and efforts to create a treatment program for women dealing with multiple mental health problems as well as suicidal thoughts and ideation. Linehan combined studies and literature on treatments for disorders such as anxiety, depression, and other problems to create an evidence-based intervention method that specifically targeted suicidal behavior. 

Originally, the treatment was disliked by clients as they felt they were being misunderstood or criticized and many clients dropped out of the treatment program. Linehan used this experience and sought after an approach that helped the client feel that they were being accepted by the clinician and methods to help the client accept themselves as well. 

Eventually, this treatment evolved into what we now know as dialectical behavior therapy which balances acceptance with strategies aimed at changing client behaviors and thought patterns.

people in a dialectical behavior therapy session

5 Functions of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

During this treatment, there are 5 main functions of dialectical behavior therapy that clinicians hope to accomplish. 

1. Enhance Capabilities 

Many clients being treated with dialectical behavior therapy need to establish skills to help them through their day-to-day lives, including emotional regulation, mindfulness capabilities, interpersonal skills, and distress toleration. These are taught through the group skills training sessions that occur weekly. 

2. Skill Application

It is vital that skills taught in group sessions are being used outside of a clinical setting, in an individual’s day-to-day life. To ensure that these skills are actually being put to use, therapists will give clients homework assignments and even practice using these skills during the individual therapy sessions.

3. Improve Client Motivation 

Many people in a DBT treatment setting deal with a lack of motivation to make changes and apply the skills they have learned. The third function of DBT is to ensure that client motivation improves — you don’t want all this work to mean nothing. Each week, therapists will have clients fill out a self-monitoring form, sometimes called a diary card, where treatment targets are tracked. This diary card is used to determine how session time should be broken up and alter behaviors or thoughts that may be interfering with treatment programming. 

4. Maintaining Clinician Motivation

Along with client functions, therapists need to ensure that their motivation stays high as well. It can be mentally draining to go through these sessions as they are dealing with individuals with serious disorders. During consultation team meetings, which occur every week for about one or two hours, clinicians will problem solve in a group setting and determine how to best proceed with certain clients. 

5. Structure a Positive Environment 

The final goal of DBT is to establish an environment for the client that is conducive to their recovery and progress and deconstruct any environments that do not reinforce the positive effects of this type of treatment. An example for a substance abuser would be to have the client part ways with social circles that may be contributing to regular drug or alcohol use.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Near Los Angeles

If you are looking for a DBT treatment center in Los Angeles or the surrounding area, our team at Renaissance Recovery can help you.

At Renaissance, we offer dialectical behavior therapy at our outpatient facility in Orange County. While this is near Los Angeles and an outpatient facility allows you to travel to and from the facility, you may be looking for something closer.

If that is the case, please give us a call and we can put you in contact with verified treatment programs in your area that we know can provide great evidence-based treatment to yourself or your loved one.

an image of people in a dialectical behavior therapy session

Main Components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy often consists of weekly one-hour individual therapy sessions, a weekly group skills training session, and a therapist consultation team meeting. Let’s take a closer look at these components and how they can help clients dealing with everything from a borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and more. 

Individual Therapy — Individual therapy sessions are what most people associated with DBT. This time is used to help clients improve their motivation and acceptance of themselves and learn to apply the skills that they learn to specific situations and events in their lives when they leave the clinical setting.

Skills Training — The skills training sessions of DBT are focused on teaching clients behavioral skills. Think of the group skills training sessions like a classroom in which the clinician acts as the group leader and assigns “homework” in which the clients are to practice these skills in their everyday lives. 

Consultation Team — Providing DBT services can be a difficult thing for clinicians and meetings between clinicians in a consultation setting are meant to help therapists stay motivated and competent as they work to provide the best treatment possible for individuals dealing with severe and difficult disorders. 

These are three of the main components of dialectical behavior therapy, let’s take a look at some of the main goals of this form of therapy and how it can specifically help those who are dealing with severe problems like borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, and more.


Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy Effective?

After reading all this and better understanding dialectical behavior therapy, you may be asking yourself: is this type of therapy even effective? Does it work?

The short answer is yes. 

Dialectical behavior therapy has been studied in numerous different settings and has shown to be an effective form of treatment for individuals struggling with borderline personality disorder, substance use disorder, and mental health disorders

Specifically, DBT has proven to be especially effective in helping clients overcome self-injurious behaviors, reduce suicidal attempts, and improving inpatient treatment days.

people in a dialectical behavior therapy session

Finding Dialectical Behavior Therapy Near Me

Now that you know more about DBT and have a better understanding of how it works, you may be looking to find a DBT therapist near you to help you or your loved one overcome some mental health disorder or substance abuse problem. 

There is a long list of treatment centers and facilities across the nation that can offer you help for these issues. You can use some of the many resources across the internet to make your search easier, for example, SAMHSA has a treatment locator tool that can help you find treatment near you.

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Renaissance Recovery’s California Dialectical Behavior Therapy

If you are looking for DBT therapy in California, Renaissance Recovery has substance abuse and mental health treatment services available at our outpatient centers.

Along with dialectical behavior therapy, Renaissance clients have access to a number of other treatment options including things like cognitive behavioral therapy, dual diagnosis treatment, medication-assisted treatment, and more. 

If you or a loved one are looking to get help, please call our admissions team today, we can help you find your way. 

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