Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Our emotions have a significant impact on our behaviour. When we’re feeling happy, we may be more likely to engage in positive activities, whereas when we’re feeling angry or anxious, we may be more prone to negative behaviours. This is especially true for people struggling with addiction as emotional triggers can lead to addiction cravings and relapse. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) can help you better manage your emotional reactions, which in turn can help you overcome addiction cravings. As part of our comprehensive rehab treatment programmes, DBT is a vital therapy at Banbury Lodge and we have seen countless people benefit hugely from it.


The fundamentals of DBT

DBT is a type of cognitive-behavioural therapy that was initially developed by Dr Marsha Linehan in the 1980s to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). DBT is rooted in the dialectical philosophy, which means it encourages acceptance of opposing views and finding a balance between them. In addiction counselling, the fundamental principles of DBT focus on balancing change and acceptance and helping you find a way to accept yourself while still seeking to make positive changes in your life.

How DBT works for addiction treatment

DBT for addiction treatment is a process that involves several key stages or modules. The modules build on each other, starting with the most fundamental aspects of DBT and progressing to more complex concepts. These modules are:


Mindfulness is a critical component of DBT. The practice of mindfulness involves being present in the moment, paying attention to one’s thoughts and feelings, and being aware of the surrounding environment. Mindfulness helps you to be more aware of your emotional state, which is essential to learning how to regulate emotions and control addiction cravings.

Distress Tolerance

Distress tolerance is the ability to tolerate and survive crisis situations. It is essential to addiction treatment because addiction is often a coping mechanism for individuals who cannot tolerate distress. In DBT, you will learn distress tolerance skills that can help you manage distressing situations without turning to drugs, alcohol or addictive behaviours.

Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is the process of managing one’s emotions effectively. It involves identifying and labelling emotions, understanding the function of emotions, and learning how to regulate emotions effectively. Emotional regulation is an essential component of DBT for addiction treatment because addiction is often driven by emotional dysregulation.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness is the ability to communicate effectively, maintain healthy relationships, and set boundaries. During DBT for addiction treatment, you will learn interpersonal effectiveness skills that can help you improve your communication and relationship-building abilities. This module is important because addiction often leads to strained relationships and communication breakdowns.

Why is DBT effective in addiction treatment?

DBT is an effective therapy in addiction treatment for several reasons.

First, DBT is designed to be supportive and collaborative, which can help you feel more comfortable and confident in your ability to overcome addiction. Through the supportive environment of DBT, you can explore your thoughts and emotions in a safe and non-judgmental space.

Second, DBT is a cognitive-behavioural therapy, which means it focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This approach helps you to understand how your thoughts and emotions can lead to addiction cravings and relapse and how you can modify your behaviour to manage these triggers more effectively. By examining the root causes of addictive behaviours and identifying negative thought patterns, you can see how they are related and break the chain.

Third, DBT is a skills-based therapy, which means you learn practical skills you can use in your everyday life to manage emotions and control addiction cravings. The combination of these skills makes DBT a powerful tool in addiction treatment, as it provides you with practical strategies to cope with difficult feelings and triggers that can lead to relapse.

How is DBT used in tandem with other addiction treatment therapies?

DBT can be used in conjunction with other addiction treatment therapies to provide a comprehensive approach to addiction treatment. These include:

DBT and individual therapy

For example, DBT can be used in combination with individual therapy to provide a more holistic approach to addiction treatment. DBT can give you greater insight into your thoughts, feelings and behaviours which you can then delve into with your individual therapist.

DBT and group therapy

Similarly, DBT can be used in group therapy to provide you with additional support and a sense of community. Group therapy can help you feel less isolated in your struggles with addiction and can provide you with a supportive environment in which to practice the skills you have learned during DBT.

DBT and 12-step

Moreover, DBT can be used at every step of the 12-step process. For example, one important step is to recognise the damage your addictive behaviour has done both to yourself and to others. Once you realise the root causes of that behaviour is due to negative emotions, when you learn to control those emotions, you can forgive yourself for that harm and begin to take positive steps to repair the damage.

The benefits of DBT after rehab

DBT can also be used after you leave rehab to help you continue to manage your emotions and control addiction cravings. That is because the skills you learn during DBT can be applied to everyday life, helping you navigate the challenges and triggers that so often lead to relapse. After leaving rehab, you can continue to practice DBT skills in individual therapy or in a DBT skills group to help them maintain your recovery long-term.

Where to access DBT for addiction

At Banbury Lodge, we offer a comprehensive range of addiction treatment programmes that incorporate evidence-based therapies such as Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) to help individuals overcome addiction. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our DBT programmes and how they can help you on the journey to successful recovery.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between DBT and CBT?
DBT builds upon the principles learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). While CBT focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns, DBT also incorporates mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness skills.
Is DBT a group or individual therapy?
DBT can be conducted in either an individual or group therapy setting. Group therapy can provide individuals with additional support and a sense of community while individual therapy can allow individuals to focus more specifically on their individual goals and challenges.
What is DBT used to treat?
While DBT was initially developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD), it has since been found to be effective in treating a range of mental health conditions. In addition to addiction, DBT is also commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions involving emotional dysregulation.
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