Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Addiction Treatment

Comprehensive addiction treatment typically includes evidence-based therapies, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).1 DBT can be helpful for people who want to stop using drugs or alcohol and start the path to recovery.1 If you or a loved one are struggling, you can benefit from learning about DBT for addiction.

Please keep reading to learn more about DBT, how it works, the benefits of dialectical behavior therapy for addiction, whether DBT is covered by insurance, and how to find DBT and addiction treatment near Dallas/Fort Worth.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

DBT is an evidence-based psychosocial intervention that combines techniques from behavior therapy, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) into treatment for people struggling with disorders involving emotional dysregulation and maladaptive behavior.2  While it was initially developed to treat complex mental health issues, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD), a disorder where people struggle with emotional dysregulation and impulsivity.

DBT and its concepts have since evolved and been adapted for use in treating patients with other mental and behavioral health conditions that are influenced by problems with emotional regulation and impulsiveness, including eating disorders, certain anxiety, depressive, and mood disorders, PTSD, and substance use disorders.1

Benefits of DBT During Addiction Treatment

DBT can provide a number of benefits to people during rehab and addiction treatment. Dialectical behavior therapy treatment for addiction is designed to:1

  • Decrease a person’s substance use.
  • Reduce or deal with symptoms related to withdrawal or abstinence.
  • Reduce cravings and urges to use.
  • Help people recognize and avoid situations, people, and other cues to resume substance use.
  • Reduce behaviors that are associated with substance use.
  • Increasing healthy behaviors and participation in the recovery community.

How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

DBT is a collaborative effort between the therapist(s) and the person in therapy.1 Every person’s experience is unique, and some elements may vary depending on a person’s needs.

DBT involves certain important functions as follows:1

  • Helping increase a person’s motivation to change.
  • Helping to build a person’s capabilities in distress tolerance, emotional regulation, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness.
  • Encouraging people to generalize new behaviors (i.e., apply them to other situations as needed).
  • Creating a structured environment.

DBT treatment typically involves the following components, which may be modified or shortened, depending on the needs of the patient:1

  • Group therapy designed to develop specific behavioral and emotional skills.5 People receive training in four key modules: core mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance.5 People generally receive homework and are encouraged to track how they use the skills outside treatment.5
  • Individual therapy involves meeting one-on-one with a therapist to discuss progress and work through any issues that may arise, strengthen new behaviors and skills, and work on challenges.5
  • Phone coaching is sometimes made available to clients as needed, such as when emergencies or maladaptive behaviors arise or when people need extra guidance.5

DBT for Addiction Treatment & Recovery

DBT works hierarchically to prioritize behaviors deemed most important first, such as decreasing life-threatening behaviors such as suicidal ideation, then moving to reduce behaviors that interfere with therapy (e.g. showing up late), and then toward reducing behaviors that have consequences that affect quality of life, such as substance use, and increasing behavioral skills.1

Dialectical behavior therapy techniques for addiction may involve the same techniques as standard DBT but focus on substance use behaviors, such as learning skills to cope with urges to use and plan for relapses and finding healthier outlets for uncomfortable emotions (such as calling a friend or working out instead of using substances).1

People are expected to commit to abstinence from substances for a period that is attainable for the person, such as a day, a month, or 6 months.1  This commitment to abstinence begins from the first session.1  If a return to substance use occurs, DBT views this as a problem to be solved by the therapist and client, instead of a failing of the therapist or client or treatment itself.1

Is DBT Covered by Insurance?

As DBT is a mental health and substance use disorder treatment, it should be covered by most insurance plans, at least in part, but it can depend on the setting and program and  your exact benefits.According to the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, health insurance plans are required to cover services for mental health, behavioral health, and substance use disorders in a way that is comparable to their physical health coverage.7 Insurance coverage can vary, so it’s important to check your specific benefits with your carrier.

DBT and Addiction Treatment Near Dallas Ft. Worth

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance misuse or addiction, know that treatment and therapies like DBT can help. Please reach out to our admissions navigators at for more information, including how to start treatment at Greenhouse Treatment’s inpatient rehab near Dallas or our outpatient center. You can learn more about types of rehab, handling the cost of rehab, and start the admissions process today.

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