Some people with substance use disorders (SUDs) or dual diagnoses may need more assistance than typical cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a variation of CBT and uses many of the same modalities, including:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Initially created to help women with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), DBT has become a trusted, evidence-based therapy system used for various conditions. At Villa Oasis San Diego, we use DBT to help our residents accept who they are and heal from their pasts with substances.
A woman telling a story during a dialectical behavior therapy session

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    What does DBT treat?

    Dialectical behavior therapy has historically been used to treat substance use disorder (SUD). At Villa Oasis, we believe that dialectical behavior therapy is an integral part of each resident’s healing process. However, DBT isn’t just used to tackle substance issues.

    When someone has a substance abuse problem along with a mental health issue, it is considered a dual diagnosis. The two disorders often play off each other in detrimental ways. Some of the mental health disorders associated with dual diagnosis include:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Bipolar disorder
    • BPD
    • Eating disorders
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    What is DBT at Villa Oasis like?

    To be considered DBT, a program must include specific elements. These are each important to the process. Regardless of the person’s condition, each of these elements must be incorporated.
    Some of these elements include:
    • The biopsychosocial theory of focusing on emotions in treatment
    • A consistent dialectical philosophy
    • Mindfulness
    • Acceptance-oriented interventions

    All of these come together to show people how to develop ways of coping with stress, improve relationships, live in the moment, and regulate emotions. At Villa Oasis, we strive to combine traditional DBT with more holistic approaches to treatment. Combined with regular detox and our other rehabilitation programs, the result can be life-changing.

    What to expect at Villa Oasis

    There are other pieces to the healing process needed to treat someone with a dual diagnosis, such as detox. This can be a challenging process, especially for someone with preexisting mental health issues. However, staff will be informed beforehand of any specific needs and monitor the individual as they make it through the treatment program. For some, medication will be administered to assist them through the rougher portions of detox.

    After the resident completes the detox process and is ready to transfer into an inpatient rehab program, they will be evaluated. This evaluation will consider their time in detox, the severity of substance abuse, and what substances they were addicted to. It will also discern their current state of mental health to properly decide how the DBT process should proceed.

    A medical psychologist taking notes while the patient tells a story while laying on the couch during a dialectical behavioral therapy session

    Out DBT program in San Diego

    Individuals going through DBT will follow the treatment plan created for them by our professional staff. This continued treatment is put into effect due to increased possibilities of relapse. People with dual diagnoses are often at higher risk of relapse due to preexisting mental health issues.

    When DBT begins, it is very similar to CBT. As a subset of CBT, it involves a few standard treatment modalities, which include:
    • Group therapy sessions
    • Individual therapy sessions
    • Medical consultation team meetings
    These three pieces form the basis of any treatment process and cannot exist without each other. The difference is what people do during these sessions sets them apart from standard CBT.

    Group therapy

    The group therapy process for DBT will include typical group therapy approaches where behavioral skills are discussed and taught. This will allow people to interact with others struggling with the same issues.

    The difference between DBT group therapy and a typical group session is that a focus is placed on mindfulness. Mindfulness is important for people going through a dual diagnosis treatment program, like ours in San Diego. Often, the distraction of life has led to adverse behaviors.

    Mindfulness is taught in both group and individual settings. In a group, there may be an emphasis on understanding each other’s feelings on top of the individual’s. The primary aspect of mindfulness is to understand how to focus on a current mood or situation.
    A medical professional will ask the group what they see, hear, smell, etc., and allow them to share their answers. This will build a sensory library in the immediate area. With the help of others, the individuals will begin to realize just how much there is to notice around them. The goal is that instead of having big thoughts about their lives, people will be able to focus even further inwards on their bodies and minds.
    Group therapy works for DBT because it shows people that others are in the same position and that they can develop the necessary skills for recovery by working together.

    Individual therapy

    When working directly with a medical professional, the concepts learned in the group will take a stronger and more individualized role. Individual DBT therapy will delve deeper into the person’s feelings, emotions, and the roots of their dual diagnosis.
    In DBT individual sessions, individuals will talk more about these issues until they can externalize the pain and emotions. This will then allow them to learn how to better focus on their current moment and learn to distance themselves from the pain they have suffered.
    People will be taught to place themselves in a self-induced state and push out the world, focusing instead on their inner feelings, sensations, and thoughts. This is often done in complete silence. DBT therapy is also tied to other types of mindfulness, such as journaling, yoga, or other meditative and introspective activities.

    The benefits of mindfulness in DBT

    With all this talk about mindfulness, it is essential to understand how it works in conjunction with CBT in an effort to be labeled as DBT. Those with a dual diagnosis are often distracted by their own issues or the issues caused by their substance abuse.
    When the substances are taken away, it often leaves a hole where the individual sees hopelessness. Getting involved supplemental programs, such as mindfulness practices, can greatly reduce the chance of a relapse and empower an individual through their recovery process.

    Find wellness at Villa Oasis San Diego

    At Villa Oasis San Diego, we have learned that to take that hole away means filling it with something else. That something else is self-awareness. When a person comes to us, there is a noticeable change in their outlook. This change can only come about through learned behavior and introspection.

    Villa Oasis San Diego helps people understand themselves and the role mindfulness will play in their healing process. Contact us if you or a loved one is struggling with substance use or want our professional staff to verify your insurance.

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