DBT for Addiction

When it comes to treatment for addiction, there are many different methods that a person may respond best to. Some individuals find success in group therapy options while others may require more intensive care for the severity of their disorder. All in all, it’s imperative to treat each person on an individualized basis. Each individual is unique, and their treatment should reflect that; otherwise, they’re receiving cookie-cutter treatment methods that may not be the best fit for them. For some individuals, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) for addiction may be the best option.

At Bayview Recovery Center in San Diego, California, we utilize addiction therapy services as an important component of our customized treatment programs, as this form of support and care fosters healing and recovery.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a method of care that focuses on pinpointing why a person behaves a certain way. It is an evidence-based psychotherapy designed to help people manage overwhelming emotions, improve relationships, and live more mindfully. DBT was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder; it has since been adapted for a variety of mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, and PTSD.

The core of DBT lies in the concept of dialectics, or balancing opposites; this encourages patients to accept their experiences while simultaneously working to change unhealthy behaviors. DBT for addiction systematically fosters skills in mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. It does this through individual therapy, group and life skills training, phone coaching, and a consultation team for therapists.

Goals/Principles of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT is designed with the goal of teaching individuals skills to cope with stress, regulate emotions, and improve relationships with others. Originating from a need to treat borderline personality disorder, its applications have broadened over time. The core principles underpinning DBT focus on the following:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness


These principles guide individuals toward accepting their experiences while simultaneously working on changing unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns.

The four main components of DBT

The four main components of DBT include the following:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

Mindfulness in DBT is a core principle that focuses on being fully present and engaged in the current moment without judgment. It teaches individuals to observe and describe their thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without attaching any negative or positive evaluation to them. This practice helps in reducing emotional distress and improving emotional regulation. It does this by allowing individuals to accept their inner experiences, leading to greater self-awareness and emotional control.

Distress tolerance is a core component of DBT, focusing on empowering individuals to bear pain skillfully. It involves techniques and strategies for accepting, finding meaning for, and tolerating distress without resorting to destructive or escape behaviors. The goal is not to eliminate distress but to equip individuals with practical skills to survive crises. Accepting life circumstances beyond one’s control is imperative, as it ultimately leads to a more resilient and balanced emotional life.

Emotion regulation in DBT is designed to teach skills to manage and change emotions that are causing problems in their lives. This involves the following:

  • Understanding and naming emotions
  • Decreasing the frequency of unwanted emotions
  • Reducing vulnerability to the emotional mind
  • Increasing mindfulness to current emotions


By applying these skills, individuals are better equipped to experience their emotions in a healthier, more balanced way. This leads to improved decision-making and interpersonal relationships.

Interpersonal effectiveness in DBT refers to the skills and strategies a person can adopt to communicate more effectively with others; it ensures that their needs are met while maintaining positive relationships. These skills help individuals to ask for what they need, say no when necessary, and manage conflicts in a manner that is assertive yet respectful.


Interpersonal effectiveness in DBT emphasizes the importance of balancing one’s priorities. It also emphasizes demands of the situation, and the need to maintain the relationship in any interaction. Ultimately, interpersonal effectiveness maximizes the chances of achieving desired outcomes without damaging relationships.

DBT has emerged as a highly effective treatment for individuals grappling with addiction. This method of care offers a multifaceted approach that addresses the complexities of substance use disorders. It equips individuals with coping mechanisms to manage stress, regulate emotions, and improve interpersonal relationships; these factors are often at the core of addictive behaviors. By fostering mindfulness, DBT encourages patients to live in the moment and develop an awareness of their behaviors and triggers. This has the potential to lay a foundation for lasting recovery.

What is the Cognitive Triangle?

The cognitive triangle is a model that illustrates the interconnectedness between our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It posits that these three components influence each other in a cyclical manner. For example, a negative thought can lead to a negative emotion, which can result in a negative behavior. Understanding this triangle is fundamental in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); it offers insights into how changing one’s thoughts can have a cascading effect on one’s emotions, leading to healthier psychological outcomes.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that is effective for a range of problems. These include depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. It is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and challenging negative and unhelpful thought patterns. It also examines beliefs and attitudes that contribute to emotional and behavioral issues. CBT combines cognitive therapy with behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy focuses on changing unhelpful behaviors, aiming to foster more positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Is CBT Different from DBT?

dbt for addictionCBT and DBT are both evidence-based psychotherapeutic approaches, but they differ significantly in their focus and application. CBT is a more generalized treatment aimed at altering negative thought patterns and behaviors. This makes it effective for a range of psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety.

DBT, on the other hand, was specifically developed to treat borderline personality disorder; it incorporates a more comprehensive approach that includes the following:

  • Skills training in mindfulness
  • Emotional regulation
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

In short, CBT emphasizes understanding and changing thought and behavior patterns; DBT focuses on accepting and coping with difficult emotions through a balance of change and acceptance strategies.

How Does Dialectical Behavior Therapy Work?

Many insurance plans offer coverage for individual therapy sessions, but coverage can vary depending on your insurance provider and plan. To determine if individual therapy is covered by your insurance, it’s essential to:

DBT operates on the principle of balancing acceptance and change. It helps individuals recognize and accept their current emotional state while simultaneously working on changing negative patterns. This therapy integrates techniques such as mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. Through this comprehensive approach, DBT aids individuals in developing coping mechanisms that facilitate better decision-making, enhance relationship skills, and encourage a more mindful and positive life approach.

How does DBT work as an addiction treatment?

DBT functions as an effective addiction treatment by integrating cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness practices. This approach helps individuals gain greater awareness and control of their thoughts and behaviors; this is especially true in response to stress and triggers related to substance use.

As previously mentioned, DBT focuses on teaching coping skills in four key areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Through these skill sets, individuals learn to manage and do the following: difficult emotions, cravings, and improve relationships, which are often strained by the effects of addiction. This multifaceted approach not only aids in recovery from substance use disorders but also enhances overall life satisfaction and mental health.

How to Find the Right Facility or Therapist Specializing in DBT

Finding the right facility or therapist specializing in DBT requires a blend of research, evaluation, and sometimes, trial and error. Begin by checking online directories and mental health websites that list certified DBT therapists. It’s also beneficial to seek recommendations from mental health professionals or individuals who have undergone DBT.

Once you’ve identified potential therapists or facilities, review their credentials, experience, and approach to ensure they align with your needs. Don’t hesitate to contact them for an initial consultation to gauge comfort and compatibility. The effectiveness of DBT is significantly influenced by the rapport between the therapist and the client; it makes this step crucial in the journey to stability and healing.

Is DBT for Addiction Covered by Insurance?

patient and therapist during DBT

Coverage for DBT for addiction varies widely depending on the insurance provider and the specific health plan. Typically, if DBT is provided as part of evidence-based treatment, it may be covered under mental health and behavioral health benefits. However, individuals should consult their policy details or contact their insurance provider directly to understand the extent of coverage; this includes any deductibles, copayments, or specific provider network requirements that may apply.

Is it Possible to Pay for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Without Insurance?

It is possible to pay for Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) without insurance. Many therapists and DBT programs offer self-pay options for clients who do not have insurance coverage or choose not to use it. Some might also offer sliding scale fees based on the individual’s income to make therapy more accessible. Additionally, there are community mental health centers and online therapy platforms that provide DBT services at reduced rates for those facing financial difficulties.

Learn More About Our Addiction Therapy Services

At Bayview Recovery Center, our personalized approach to addiction recovery integrates cutting-edge treatment methods with compassionate care; it’s designed to address not just the addiction but its underlying causes. We’re committed to offering a path to healing that is as unique as you are. If you or a loved one would like to find out more, you can contact us here.

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