Girl with group support in dialectical behavioral therapy for drug and alcohol addiction

Dialectical Behavior Therapy For Drug And Alcohol Addiction

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for substance abuse is a unique type of behavioral therapy offered at Hotel California by the Sea to help patients cope with distressing emotions and behaviors. For individuals suffering from severe emotional dysregulation, addiction treatment experts often apply this therapy to help treat co-occurring mental health disorders. By treating addiction with DBT, patients learn and develop useful skills to fight off drug and alcohol cravings and cope with uncomfortable emotions.


Request a Call

Handsome man struggling with mental health with two shadows, one happy, one upset

When patients go through our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs at Hotel California by the Sea, our medical physicians and clinical team may recommend substance abuse dialectical behavior therapy to aid in their recovery from a substance use disorder. DBT has been proven highly effective in treating a range of mental disorders such as personality disorder, depression, anxiety and more. Through treatment of underlying co-occurring mental disorders, patients have a higher chance of recovery and maintaining long-term sobriety.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

As a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy focuses on two main principles when it comes to substance use therapy: acceptance and change. DBT helps patients acknowledge their situation and helps them develop the needed tools and techniques to change unhealthy habits through cognitive therapy.

For those who have experienced past traumas, fears or skewed perceptions on normal life situations and circumstances, they often develop negative reactions towards these everyday events. Through DBT, patients become aware of these abnormal reactions and learn strategic tools to help them cope with these situations in a healthy manner.

Used to help those with severe or chronic co-occurring mental health disorders, DBT utilizes the following components during treatment:

  • Providing patients with the ability to develop their own skills and tools to manage emotional regulation, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness and distress tolerance.
  • Teaching and encouraging patients to transfer their newly learned coping skills across all aspects of their lives that have been touched by their addiction including work life, home life and social life.
  • Provide individualized treatment to fit the unique needs of each patient.
  • Provide any additional support needed to make sure patients don’t experience therapy burnout.
  • Creating a positive and structured environment where patients can feel safe to practice their newly learned skills and ultimately change their negative behavior patterns.

DBT also relies on practices of mindfulness. Therapists who practice mindfulness believe if a patient can become more aware of their thoughts and emotions, they will be able to make positive and permanent personality changes. Individuals suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders typically go through the following stages when in DBT.

Stage 1

The goal of this stage is to help the patient establish a sense of control over their problematic behaviors.

Stage 2

The goal of this stage is to allow patients to experience their emotional pain rather than pushing it away.

Stage 3

The goal of this stage is to help patients set goals to promote a healthy and positive emotional and physical state.

Stage 4

The goal of this stage is to help patients achieve and maintain their goals for long-term recovery.

History of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy was developed by Marsha Linehan, a clinical psychologist at the University of Washington, in the 1980’s to help individuals suffering from suicidal thoughts and borderline personality disorder. While working with patients utilizing the CBT method, Linehan realized it was flawed with a few problems that needed to be adjusted.

One of the adjustments made was to officially incorporate the concept of mindfulness as a therapeutic method to help patients manage their emotions. Linehan also integrated more acceptance-based techniques to allow patients to feel supported and validated with their initial feelings before being able to change and redirect them. DBT is now officially listed in the SAMHSA’s Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

Woman receiving DBT therapy from another women whose supporting her by holding her hand

How does DBT differ from CBT?

DBT is considered as a subcategory of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both of these substance use therapies involve learning how to better understand and manage behaviors and emotions related to substance addiction.

CBT focuses more on identifying problematic thought patterns and the best tools to change and redirect these thoughts into positive and productive emotions. In comparison with DBT practices, patients are encouraged to acknowledge, validate and accept that these problematic emotions are part of the healing process. Once patients have accepted these emotions, they will be able to move forward with strategic changes toward a positive outcome away from their addiction and behaviors related to their addiction.

Where CBT emphasizes changing negative thought patterns and behaviors in order to create a healthier outlook on life, DBT is targeted to regulating and managing these intense emotions and behaviors. CBT is also a practice that can be completed in a shorter amount of time, whereas DBT involves a longer period of time to help patients completely work through their issues.

Effective techniques of DBT and how it helps individuals who struggle with Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions

Dialectical behavior therapy uses a few specific techniques to achieve patient treatment goals. At Hotel California by the Sea, DBT uses a combination of individual therapy as well as group therapy treatments to help patients understand and manage their emotions usually associated with drugs and alcohol. Both inpatient and outpatient programming offers DBT along with other therapeutic methods to help those suffering from co-occurring mental health disorders.

Individual Therapy

During individual one-on-one therapy, patients focus on acknowledging, accepting and working through emotional dysregulation and traumatic experiences. By addressing these emotions with a certified clinician, the patient’s motivations are enhanced and able to better develop coping techniques for management of their emotions related to addiction. For patients who may need extra support, DBT clinicians are also available over the phone through telehealth services. This one-on-one coaching is very beneficial for patients who are overwhelmed with their addiction emotions or are in crisis and need more than their scheduled in-person and group therapy support.

Skills Training Group Therapy

With DBT, there is often a group skills training session in which group members get together to learn new skills for coping and practice these new techniques with like-minded peers who may be in the same state of mind and have similar experiences. In skills training, patients will focus on practicing and implementing the following strategies:

  • Mindfulness – practice being fully present in the current moment
  • Distress Tolerance – learn to acknowledge and tolerate painful emotions in difficult situations
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness – learn how to ask for what you want without compromising your self-respect and maintaining healthy boundaries with personal relationships
  • Emotional Regulation – learn how to change the emotions that you want to change

This group therapy session can help with patients who are struggling with feelings of isolation or for patients in need of social skills practice as a newly recovered and sober person.

Who is the target audience for Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

DBT was initially developed to help individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD). Today, not only is it one of the most effective treatment methods for BPD, it is also implemented in many treatments of substance use disorders, depression and eating disorders.

At Hotel California by the Sea, patients with co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression often see major benefits from DBT. When DBT is used in addition to other various treatment methods, patients have a higher rate of recovery success. Our inpatient and outpatient programs offer DBT and other individual and group therapies as a part of treatment for patients in drug and alcohol rehab.

Woman with short curly hair consoling another woman in group therapy

In what Substance Use Disorder treatments is Dialectical Behavior Therapy used?

Substance abuse dialectical behavior therapy is especially helpful for those with mental health conditions involving intense emotional dysregulation. DBT is often used to target patients with difficult conditions and has seen very little success with other types of therapies and treatment methods.

For those who suffer from bipolar disorders and other co-occurring disorders that occur alongside drug and alcohol abuse, they are often recommended DBT as part of their treatment therapy. During the beginning of addiction therapy, emotional dysregulation is normal and expected. It takes time for a brain to heal and become balanced after significant drug and alcohol use. For more difficult conditions of co-occurring mental health disorders such as BPD, DBT is a highly effective therapy treatment.

For patients in our inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs in Orange County, CA, DBT is a treatment therapy utilized by the clinical team. For the duration of their enrollment in our programs, DBT and various other treatment methods help patients achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a unique Treatment Method offered at Hotel California by the Sea

At Hotel California by the Sea, we believe in a multifaceted and dynamic approach to addiction. Our clients can expect to receive customized treatment plans catered to their needs in order to stay sober. We incorporate DBT for substance and alcohol use disorder into many of our treatment plans within the inpatient and outpatient programs. DBT is an evidenced based treatment therapy with a proven record of efficacy in treating a variety of co-occurring mental health disorders.

While many types of therapy teach patients to escape, change or remove their problematic thoughts and emotions related to their addiction, DBT encourages their patients to acknowledge and accept these feelings in order to move forward with healing. DBT believes in the concept of acceptance and that these problematic feelings will exist and the best way to address them is to learn how to strategically manage them so that patients can feel in control of their own actions and feelings.

Dialectical behavior therapy has been proven to be very effective in conjunction with additional treatment therapies such as CBT, EMDR and various addiction recovery support groups. At Hotel California by the Sea’s inpatient and outpatient rehab programs, patients will have access to a psychiatrist and/or therapist at least two times per week or as needed based on their treatment plan recommendation. Patients will be assessed regularly and the frequency of DBT will be adjusted according to the needs of the patient.

How effective is Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions?

For patients suffering from borderline personality disorder, studies have shown that DBT is a highly effective substance use therapy and can help in reducing the risk of suicide. Many individuals suffering from a dual diagnosis of mental health disorders lack the skills to cope and deal with difficult emotions associated with their substance addiction. DBT has been proven highly effective in teaching these skills and coping mechanisms to patients as they navigate recovery and sobriety. As soon as the self-destructive thoughts and behaviors are under control, patients will start to heal.

What are the benefits of DBT for Substance and Alcohol Addiction?

DBT has been proven to be highly beneficial for patients suffering from co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and specifically for borderline personality disorder. Because DBT focuses on helping patients develop techniques to effectively manage their disruptive thoughts and behaviors, these skills will in turn benefit other aspects of their lives outside of their addiction. These new skill sets can help them with issues in their personal relationships, social relationships and even in a professional workplace setting. Sometimes DBT is also conducted in a group setting where patients will benefit from group support.

Get Help

Dialectical behavior therapy is often utilized as a treatment method for those suffering from substance abuse related co-occurring mental health disorders. If you or a loved one is suffering from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or borderline personality disorder, our DBT treatment at Hotel California by the Sea might be right for you. Reach out to our admissions team today to learn more about our individualized DBT treatments and how they can make an impact on your recovery. Our experienced team members are here to answer any questions or concerns you may have when seeking out treatment for your substance use disorder.

Request a Call

The road to recovery is full of uncertainty, leave your worries behind…
Our compassionate staff will answer all of your questions without any pressure. Learn about our evidence-based drug addiction treatment and rehab, the ease of entering our program, and the benefits of getting help from a reputable addiction treatment facility like Hotel California by the Sea.

Every member of our admissions team has been where you are today – be sure to ask them about their journey!