Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for Substance Abuse in Florida

Therapy is a key resource in recovery, especially for individuals suffering from addiction. Although dialectical behavior therapy is relatively new, it has become very useful for a large number of illnesses. Dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT for short, is a branch of cognitive behavioral therapy that has been known to help with substance abuse, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. 

This form of therapy has come a long way since its inception in the 1980s, with multiple dialectical options, modules, and homework to focus on outside of the therapy sessions. DBT for substance abuse can be an incredible asset for individuals needing help, so let Intrepid Detox and our programs help you or a loved one recover. 

What is DBT for Substance Abuse?

DBT was created in the 1980s and is essentially a form of verbal or communicative therapy that focuses on a subject’s thoughts and feelings. Like mentioned before, DBT is utilized while treating a large number of mental health disorders and addictions, but it was originally intended to treat borderline personality disorder. This form of therapy puts more emphasis on the patient’s psychosocial points of treatment, which are how the individual interacts in relationships.

The reasons for needing DBT can be vast, but the therapy has been proven to work incredibly well. This form of therapy teaches patients how to maintain and improve relationships, deal with stress and grief, and stay in control of their emotions. A major aspect of DBT is how it encourages individuals to process and react accordingly to the moment they’re living in. This form of therapy stems from the belief that some individuals react differently to emotional situations. DBT attempts to help individuals with irregular emotional reactions and recover from whatever the cause may be, which is a reason DBT works so well for substance abuse.

How Does DBT for Substance Abuse Work?

DBT has evolved a lot since its initial usage in the 1980s. As the therapy has become more refined, some basic principles and helpful components have emerged. A key characteristic of DBT is how acceptance and change are utilized. Acceptance and change might seem counterintuitive, but DBT therapists blend the two together to facilitate healing, learning and maturing. There are four modules of DBT, along with multiple components, which are designed to help individuals learn how to regulate their emotions, actions, and adapt.

Modules of DBTDBT for Substance Abuse


Mindfulness is designed to be an acceptance-oriented skill, which teaches individuals how to focus more on the moment they’re in. By asking “what” and “how,” individuals learn skills that give them tools to describe, observe, and participate in the moments they’re living in, without falling victim to emotional irregularities.

Distress Tolerance

This is a key module of DBT that is designed to be an effective skill that helps individuals manage stressful situations. Learning to accept and manage the stress of a situation, like dealing with a trigger after recovering from an addiction, is a key skill to learn for long-term recovery. Distress tolerance teaches individuals how to manage stress without turning to a harmful or irregular coping strategy such as substance abuse.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is another great skill learned through DBT so individuals can control how they feel in various situations. Individuals in DBT learn how to appeal to emotions that have healthy effects, become more aware of their emotions, learn to control emotional urges, and solve issues using reasonable and healthy solutions. Individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder have been known to show great improvement in their symptoms after developing emotional regulation.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

This is a module that improves how an individual communicates and interacts in their relationships. DBT facilitates the learning of interpersonal skills, such as being more assertive and being a better listener. This module allows individuals to react to situations better and more clearly communicate their needs.

Components of DBT

  • Skills training is typically a group therapy and class environment, where the focus is to improve individuals’ behavioral skills. Most groups run like a school class, as homework is assigned, there’s a leader to teach skills, and individuals enrolled in this training practice the skills taught on a daily basis. These groups have a full curriculum that typically runs for a full year, but shorter programs have also been developed.
  • Regular individual psychotherapy sessions are what most people think of when picturing DBT. These sessions usually run for about 60 minutes and focus on an individual’s motivation and applying the skills learned into their daily lives. The sessions can be incredibly helpful, especially for symptoms of substance abuse.
  • Weekly group therapy sessions are another important component of DBT. These sessions can vary in time, but usually last between two or three hours and are led by licensed mental health counselors who have the proper training. The group therapy sessions can be scheduled for around six months. Patients get a multitude of value from these therapy sessions, but support, sympathy, and understanding are among the top reasons.
  • Phone coaching is a component for individuals who either can’t see a counselor in person or simply need more support. For patients that feel overwhelmed by social anxiety or any other reason, this may be a vital component in their recovery.

Who Are Candidates for DBT for Addiction?

Individuals who typically need dialectical behavior therapy have more than one issue needing treatment, such as suffering from depression and substance abuse. Candidates for DBT may not only have more than one issue requiring attention. They might also exhibit self-destructive behavior and struggle to manage their emotions. These individuals typically benefit the most from this form of therapy, including people diagnosed with the following conditions:

  • Borderline personality disorder 
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder 
  • Eating disorder
  • Substance use disorders 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

How Does DBT Help Treat Addiction?

DBT for addictionLike mentioned before, therapy plays a key role in treating addiction. An individual recovering from substance abuse will go through detox or other addiction treatment for the physical symptoms. However, therapy (especially DBT) focuses on the mental and behavioral aspects of addiction. Focusing on these aspects helps to educate, mature, and provide long-term solutions that give the individual skills to recover from their addiction. 

Addiction and substance abuse have the potential to change and manipulate how a person thinks and behaves. DBT is incredibly effective for substance abuse, with the modules and various components of the therapy, so patients will recover on several levels by learning to manage feelings and change their thoughts to a healthier mindset. There are multiple stages in DBT treatment, such as, but for more information about how DBT can help treat addiction, be sure to use Intrepid Detox as a resource.

Stage 1 

In the first phase, the individual is considered miserable, and their actions are irregular and or out of control. Self-harm, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts or actions are some of the self-destructive behaviors associated with the first stage in this form of treatment. 

Stage 2 

This is a phase where the individual has shown signs of improvement, but they are quietly suffering. The behavioral irregularities may be under control in this stage, but the mental treatment is still ongoing. This reasoning for stage 2 is due to past traumas and invalidations, which helps individuals move from a mental state of quietly suffering to experiencing emotions in a healthy context. 

Stage 3 

Stage 3 is typically the final phase; however, sometimes a phase 4 is needed that focuses on learning to live and find long-term relief. Defining goals, finding happiness and peace, understanding the importance of self-respect are all key points in stage 3. Ideally, an individual can experience all the happiness and unhappiness of daily life once they go through all the stages. 

Stage 4 

This might be a final stage to support individuals in finally moving forward with their lives, though helping them advance the skills learned previously and work toward becoming more fulfilled. This stage works to help individuals also earn and maintain success and happiness.

How is it Different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

DBT for substance abuseCognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are both incredibly useful tools that medical professionals use in order to help a variety of illnesses, but they are not exactly the same. CBT is structured very differently, as it only focuses on individual sessions with a counselor. The CBT sessions focus on an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior, while DBT focuses more on interactions, relationships, and an individual’s environment. However, both forms of therapy work well for individuals dealing with substance abuse. 

DBT for Substance Abuse and Recovery in Florida 

Dialectical behavior therapy can appeal to a wide range of candidates, especially for those suffering from addiction, so be sure to contact Intrepid Detox to get started helping yourself or a loved one today. Through the modules and components of DBT, individuals learn the skills needed to live a healthy daily life and deal with the stresses encountered as well. Emotional irregularities and substance abuse are not uncommon, but with the right help and support, recovery and management are possible. 

Don’t let addiction control you or a loved one, because Intrepid Detox can help.