Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy – more commonly referred to as DBT – as a proven, evidence-based approach to psychotherapy and a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The main goal of DBT is to help teach clients how to stay grounded in the present moment as they engage in emotional regulation and develop healthy stress management techniques. According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, DBT was originally developed by Marsha Linehan as a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. It has since been adapted to treat a range of other mental health concerns, including substance abuse and dependence. The article suggests that Linehan spent an ample amount of time combing through scientific studies that focused on psychosocial treatment methods for mood disorders like anxiety and depression, ultimately assembling a range of effective and evidence-based cognitive-behavioral interventions. DBT was then developed with the goal of helping suicidal patients alter their patterns of thinking and behavior while ensuring that they felt both acknowledged and understood. To this day, DBT is most commonly among men and women who have exhibited self-destructive behavioral patterns – like drug and alcohol abuse.

The Main Characteristics of DBT

DBT works by focusing on a philosophical process known as dialectics. Dialectics revolves around the concept that everything is interconnected, and suggests that change is both inevitable and constant. A licensed therapist works closely with an individual client in a one-on-one setting, attempting to resolve any existing contradiction between change and self-acceptance. The client learns a new set of behavioral skills, which are then adapted to his or her unique, recovery-related challenges. The main characteristics of this therapeutic method remain consistent across the board, and include:
  • Behavioral change – Clients learn to identify negative patterns of behavior and effectively replace these patterns with healthy behaviors that are significantly more conducive to their recovery.
  • Cognitive change – Clients identify personal beliefs and patterns of thinking that are not helpful or productive, and learn to replace these thought patterns with more positive and constructive ways of thinking.
  • A focus on self-acceptance – Many individuals who struggle with substance abuse have a difficult time tolerating uncomfortable emotions, and tend to view themselves in a negative light. DBT teaches clients to accept themselves where they are, while developing a useful set of skills that helps them gain self-esteem and foster a sense of self-worth.
  • Developing personal skill sets – Clients acquire a personal set of skills that allow them to change negative thought and behavioral patterns on their own (outside of therapy).
  • Collaboration – DBT also focuses on the development of healthy communication skills, encouraging clients and therapists to work together and collaborate.
  • Ongoing support – Clients work to identify their positive attributes, and they receive ongoing therapeutic support and encouragement which allows them to focus on and further build upon these attributes.
To learn more about DBT or the additional therapeutic services we provide, contact us today.

The Benefits and Main Strategies of DBT

We focus on behavioral changes through four main strategies of DBT. These include:

  • Core mindfulness – Clients work on developing mindfulness skills, which help them stay present in the moment and tune into their senses without judgement.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness – This strategy helps clients foster healthy interpersonal relationships. They learn to set and maintain personal boundaries, express their needs and communicate in healthy and productive ways.
  • Distress tolerance – Clients learn how to talk themselves through potential crises by employing a range of skills, including self-soothing, healthy distraction and “playing the tape through.”
  • Emotional regulation – Clients learn how to identify and work through unpleasant emotions that might otherwise lead to relapse.

DBT is an extremely effective therapeutic method, and can positively impact men and women of any age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background. Upon admission to our treatment program each individual client undergoes a detailed evaluation, which helps our clinical team determine whether or not DBT is going to be a useful and effective method of therapeutic intervention. Some degree of DBT is incorporated into nearly every personalized treatment plan.

Our Comprehensive Program of Therapeutic Care

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is simply one of the therapeutic services we provide. At Guardian Recovery we believe in providing a comprehensive program of clinical and therapeutic care available, and we offer a wide range of therapeutic services in order to achieve this goal. In addition to DBT we offer:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This effective method of psychotherapy focuses on identifying and challenging detrimental thought patterns and patterns of behavior.
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI) – This client-centered counseling approach focuses on helping clients achieve their personal treatment goals through the resolution of ambivalence.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This evidence-based method of psychotherapy was designed to resolve unprocessed trauma without a reliance on traditional talk therapy.
  • Individual therapy – Clients have access to at least one individual therapy session every week, where they dive deeper into personal challenges and underlying issues in a safe and supportive setting.
  • Group therapy – Group therapy sessions take place on a daily basis, and offer clients the opportunity to provide and receive peer support while focusing on a range of pertinent, recovery-related topics.
  • Family therapy – At Guardian Recovery we believe in the benefits of family involvement, and we offer family therapy sessions as well as a series of family workshop retreats.
  • Trauma-informed therapy – Many individuals who suffer from substance abuse simultaneously struggle with unresolved trauma. We offer trauma-informed care for clients with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related issues.
  • Experiential therapy – Some of the methods of experiential therapy we offer include adventure therapy, equine therapy and psychodrama.
  • Holistic therapies – We offer a wide range of evidence-based holistic therapies, including acupuncture, mindfulness meditation and yoga therapy.

A Multi-Phased Program of Care

At Guardian Recovery we believe in providing clients with a multi-phased continuum of clinical care, one that begins with medically monitored detox, progresses to inpatient treatment and concludes with a long-term aftercare program. During every stage of the recovery process clients have access to a range of recovery-related services, including (but certainly not limited to):

Our Simple Admissions Process

At Guardian Recovery we have developed an admissions process that is as simple and uncomplicated as possible. We know how stressful and overwhelming early recovery can be, and it is our goal to get you or your loved one admitted to a long-term program of clinical care efficiently. The moment you or your loved one picks up the phone and gives us a call or contacts us online, we begin by conducting a brief pre-assessment which can be completed in a matter of minutes. We ask a series of pertinent and non-invasive questions, including, “How long have you been abusing your substance of choice?” “Do you have a family history of substance abuse or dependence?” “Have you ever been diagnosed with or treated for a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?” These questions help our clinical team determine which level of care is the most appropriate, and which therapeutic services are going to be the most beneficial for each unique case.

Once the pre-assessment is complete we begin exploring coverage options. At Guardian Recovery we work closely with most major regional and national health insurance providers in order to make our recovery program as accessible as possible. If you are underinsured – or entirely uninsured – we offer a range of additional coverage options including self-pay and private pay. Finally, we set a date and a time for intake and help arrange travel plans. We offer safe and reliable transportation options for those in need.

If you or someone you love has been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder of any severity, contact us today. Our team of dedicated Treatment Advisors are standing by 24/7 to answer any additional questions you might have.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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