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How Do CBT and DBT Help Addiction?

Addiction is a disease that requires comprehensive treatment to address all areas of health and wellness. Thus, treatment plans must also address a person’s behavioral health needs. Behavioral therapy for addiction will greatly improve the treatment outcomes for those in recovery.

Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, is here to address all of our clients’ therapeutic needs. Clients get the best chance of a successful recovery as a result of our comprehensive, holistic approach to addiction addiction. We offer two common types of behavioral therapies—cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

CBT and DBT Overviews

There are several types of behavioral therapies for addiction and other behavioral health issues. Overall, behavioral therapy for addiction helps clients understand the connections between thoughts or beliefs and behavior. Most behavior therapies are a variation of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

CBT’s history goes back as far as the 1920s and has become more refined throughout the years. CBT is based on the idea that a person’s maladaptive behaviors result from unhelpful thinking patterns or beliefs. By challenging these unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, clients can find healthy ways to cope with stressors. 

However, while CBT is quite common, therapists developed more nuanced variations to address specific disorders or issues. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) emerged from the roots of CBT.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

Marsha Linehan developed DBT in the late 1970s, as she found that standard CBT practices were not very effective for clients with chronic suicidality and other self-harming behaviors. DBT combines CBT with additional skill-building for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindfulness. In addition, DBT is the primary therapeutic approach to treating borderline personality disorder (BPD).

CBT and Addiction

For those in recovery from addiction, CBT can help them learn more about what drives their addiction—and how to stop it. During CBT, clients challenge unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that affect their mental well-being. These unhealthy thinking patterns can keep clients feeling stuck and dissatisfied with life. 

The Process of CBT

The primary focus of CBT is identifying a person’s unhealthy thoughts and beliefs. Once a person is aware of these thoughts and beliefs, they can begin to challenge them. After that, clients can change their thoughts and beliefs from being unhelpful and negative to helpful and positive.

For example, a person might struggle with low self-esteem and drink alcohol to cope with this. The client might have an unhelpful belief driving these issues, like “no one cares about me.” The therapist will help the client challenge this belief by testing it in reality—by pointing out that the person has a treatment team or support group that cares for them, for instance.

What Are the Goals of CBT?

Overall, the goals of CBT are to challenge and change unhealthy thought patterns and beliefs. These thoughts influence a person’s emotions, which then influences their behaviors to cope with these emotions. By changing the root of the problem—unhelpful thinking—a person can feel better about themselves. 

As a result, cognitive-behavioral therapy for addiction helps clients feel relief from the challenging emotions that lead to their substance misuse.

DBT and Addiction

DBT is similar to CBT because a client’s unhealthy thought patterns are also addressed. However, during DBT, clients also focus on learning to hold two seemingly conflicting beliefs at the same time. This is because some clients struggle with thought distortions, such as black-and-white (or “all-or-nothing”) thinking.

The Process of DBT

For example, a client might struggle with relationships, especially during arguments with their partner. They might have an all-or-nothing belief that their romantic partner must never show any sign that they are upset or annoyed. In other words, the client might struggle with the idea that their partner can both love them and occasionally feel upset with them.

A therapist can help a client identify these types of thought distortions. Since many clients in dialectical behavioral therapy for addiction struggle with the distress caused by conflicting thoughts, therapists also help clients learn to tolerate this distress.

What Are the Goals of DBT?

The goals of DBT have a unique focus compared to CBT. This is because clients in DBT struggle with emotional regulation, black-and-white thinking, and distress tolerance.

Therefore, the therapeutic goals of DBT can include the following:

  • Accept that two conflicting ideas can co-exist
  • Learn to tolerate discomfort and distress
  • Gain coping skills to regulate emotions
  • Effectively communicate with others during a conflict
  • Use mindfulness techniques to remain grounded when dealing with stress

These goals can help clients who struggle with self-harming behaviors and intense emotions as well as substance misuse.

Is It Right for You?

Behavioral therapy for addiction is right for clients who have challenging, unhelpful, or distorted thoughts and beliefs that fuel negative emotions. Often, clients misuse drugs or alcohol to cope with these negative or unpleasant emotions. By changing their thoughts and beliefs to healthy ones, many clients feel better about themselves and accept healthy ways of coping with stressors.

Behavioral therapy can help with the following mental health disorders and emotional health issues:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Relationship issues
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Substance misuse
  • Impulse control

The above-mentioned list is by means exhaustive. For anyone struggling with addiction, behavioral therapy, along with other treatments, can create a well-rounded program to effectively combat addiction.

Begin Behavioral Therapy for Addiction Today

Addiction frequently stems from underlying emotional health challenges or mental health disorders. Behavioral therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) operate on the principle that an individual’s thoughts give rise to emotions, which in turn influence their behaviors. Consequently, unhealthy thought patterns can lead to adverse behaviors. However, by identifying and transforming these negative thoughts, clients can alter their problematic behaviors, fostering healthier coping mechanisms.

In order to make our services as accessible as possible, Harmony Place accepts health insurance from a broad range of providers, including Anthem BCBS, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. We understand that the financial implications of treatment can be a significant concern, and by accepting various insurance plans, we aim to ease this burden and allow you to focus on your recovery.

Contact Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, today to begin behavioral therapy for addiction.