WHAT IS DIALECTICAL BEHAVIORAL THERAPY?
Problems at work or school. Endless stress over finances. Worry over events in the news. Drugs and alcohol have been used as coping mechanisms for decades as a way to deal with daily stress.
Perhaps the worst thing about addictive substances is that they work for a while. They allow us to be distracted from our problems and numb to daily stress, allowing us to convince ourselves the problems aren’t there. This is a highly destructive behavior pattern. Drugs and alcohol eventually stop working as coping mechanisms, leaving us without a way to handle unpleasant emotions and conflict.
A person needs to be able to understand their emotions, confront their problems, and have positive behavior patterns to function without addictive substances. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) helps us build positive coping mechanisms.
By focusing on acceptance, being in the moment, and positive ways to resolve conflict, DBT helps us better regulate ourselves, avoid harmful patterns, and avoid situations that could trigger a relapse.
HOW DOES DBT WORK?
DBT views the mind as having three parts: the reasonable mind, the emotional mind, and the wise mind. The reasonable mind responds to logic, emotions, and feelings control the emotional mind, and the wise mind acts as a sort of middle ground.
All addictive substances work by altering the way the brain functions. They cause massive amounts of neurotransmitters to be released, making us feel good as we damage ourselves. These substances help the emotional mind deal with painful and distressing emotions and block out the rational mind’s more logical responses.
By teaching us how to leverage our wise minds to understand our feelings, DBT allows us to truly understand our emotions and resist the impulse to use drugs as a coping mechanism.
TIPP SKILLS: AN EXAMPLE OF DBT
DBT teaches many different skills to teach us how to regulate emotions and cultivate resilience. Among these skills are TIPP skills, which are four exercises that help us increase our stress tolerance:
With DBT, we’re able to learn new skills to help manage our emotions, reactions, and ourselves without the need for the false comfort of addictive substances.
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