Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Co-Occurring Disorders

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is one of the fastest-growing treatment methods for Borderline Personality Disorder. It has also shown positive results in treating a variety of mood-related disorders co-occurring with substance abuse, dependency and addiction. Through DBT, patients can learn positive self-soothing techniques, coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills to help them overcome their co-occurring disorders.

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

DBT expands on the methods used in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by including specific skill sets, or techniques, to replace negative coping mechanisms with positive ones. Like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, DBT helps patients modify their way of thinking and behaving. In DBT, however, the focus remains on helping patients accept themselves while at the same time recognize that they could have a better life if they changed their destructive coping methods and learned other skills. As the founder of DBT put it, “You’re perfect — now change.”

This is accomplished through individual therapy and group skills-training that focuses on the core four skills of DBT:

* Core Mindfulness: Derived from Buddhist meditation techniques, these skills teach patients to become mindful, or aware, of the present moment and to live in the present rather than focusing on the past or future. This brings awareness to their thoughts, feelings, motivations and actions that are typically ignored due to internal and external distractions.

* Interpersonal Effectiveness: These skills helps patients better interact with others by teaching them how to maintain relationships, maintain self-esteem in interactions with others, and communicate their personal needs assertively and non-abusively.

* Emotion Regulation: These skills help patients decrease the intensity of anger, fear, shame and sadness by learning how to cope with and express intense emotional experiences.

* Distress Tolerance: These skills help patients get through a distressing moment without doing something to make it worse. This reduces their tendency to abuse drugs or alcohol, relieve stress through self-injury, or fall into suicidal thinking.

How Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Helps Treat Co-Occurring Disorders

DBT was designed to treat patients with borderline personality disorder, but it has shown positive results in treating a wide range of mood disorders, including depression, bipolar disorders, bulimia, self-injury (cutting, skin picking, hair pulling, etc.), anxiety disorders (PTSD, OCD, panic disorders, phobias), psychotic disorders (schizophrenia), and substance abuse.

For people with these and other co-occurring disorders, low self-esteem and self-hate are almost always present. This presents a challenge in treatment because it makes patients unmotivated and feel unworthy of change. DBT borrows from the Zen concept of “radical acceptance,” which means that before you can move forward to positive change, you must accept yourself without judgment or blaming. Studies show that patients who learn DBT skills become much more motivated and willing to change.

Dialectal Behavior Therapy and Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Casa Palmera

Casa Palmera is based on a holistic approach to healing, and we believe that healing from any disorder starts within. Recovering from alcohol and drug addiction is a difficult journey, but it’s made even worse when co-occurring disorders are present. Our staff specializes in dual diagnosis treatment and will guide you through a treatment plan that’s individualized to your specific needs.

Free yourself from the grip of addiction and emotional pain by calling Casa Palmera today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.