Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Dual Diagnosis

A disproportionately high percentage of people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder. Fighting the battle of addiction recovery can be trying and challenging in the most ideal of circumstances, but the struggles are certainly heightened when a mental illness is involved. For these individuals, treatment needs to be addressed in a different way than somebody who struggles with substance abuse, alone. One such way that dual diagnosis treatment has improved is by using dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which was a treatment that was initially made to help patients with borderline personality disorder…

Targets destructive behaviors

Dialectical behavioral therapy’s primary function is to help individuals develop useful coping mechanisms and change their brain patterns away from dangerous spirals that led to dangerous behaviors. In order to do this, DBT helps patients first target those destructive behaviors and begin to recognize when their brain is overreacting to situations, or trying to cope with it in dangerous ways. When patients begin to recognize these patterns, it becomes easier to do something about them, which is essentially what DBT is all about.

Builds habits that improve quality of life

After targeting the destructive behaviors and patterns in a person’s life, the other major goal of DBT, which is arguably more important, is to actually help teach a person life skills to improve these behaviors and keep their minds in check. This can involve helping a person achieve a better sleep schedule, making healthy choices during the day, fighting impulses that are big or small, and improving interpersonal relationships, among other things.

Typically, DBT is broken down into several stages, starting with a client at their lowest point with behaviors that seem like they are beyond their control. Teaching people the skills that they need to improve these behaviors and take control of their lives doesn’t magically fix everything, but it does build a foundation for them to get their lives back on track.

Teaches mindfulness of emotions

The most important thing for a patient to develop in DBT is a strong mindfulness and control of their emotions. Without this, the rest of the treatment is doomed to fail. When we come to understand that our emotions are reactions to the world around us that we can change and adjust, then it becomes easier to be rational with your feelings and realize when a particular emotion is a strong overreaction to certain situations.

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