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Stages of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

stages of dialectical behavioral therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on developing strategies related to problem-solving, mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation.

But what does dialectical mean in dialectical behavior therapy? The creator of DBT, Marsha Linehan, defines “dialectical” as the integration of two opposing factors, such as change and acceptance. An example of a dialectical situation is when someone you love does something you don’t like. You may love your sibling, but it may bother you whenever they don’t respond to your text messages. As a nationwide drug and alcohol treatment center that offers this treatment, we wanted to share more about the stages of dialectical behavioral therapy.

What Is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Used For?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is used to treat suicidal or other forms of self-destructive behaviors. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we use dialectical behavior therapy to treat addiction and mental illness in our patients. Therapists who administer this form of therapy help patients identify the source of their addiction, mental illness, or emotional disturbance and help them come to terms with those stimuli.

DBT is only one of the several addiction therapies offered at Banyan. We often incorporate these treatments in our patients’ rehab programs to ensure they receive all of the tools they need to make a full and long-lasting recovery.

How Does DBT Work?

During DBT therapy sessions, therapists work closely with their clients to slowly unravel any negative emotions or behavioral patterns that contribute to their mental illness or addiction.

Dialectical behavioral therapy techniques focus on four main points:

  • Distress tolerance: Refers to experiencing intense emotions like anger or sadness without reacting impulsively or turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • Mindfulness: Refers to increased awareness of self and others, as well as learning to be present at the moment and not dwell on past events
  • Emotion regulation: Refers to recognizing emotions, labeling these emotions, identifying the root cause of these emotions, and adjusting your reaction to them
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: Refers to developing strategies to manage conflict

Addiction treatment programs are often used alongside dialectic behavioral therapy to help patients heal from past trauma and factors that have affected their mental and physical health. Substance abuse disorders are often the result of traumatic experiences and mental illness, both of which require comprehensive treatments like DBT.

What Are the Stages of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

Dialectical behavioral therapy is broken up into four stages:

  • Stage 1: The first stage of DBT focuses on stabilization. Those who are in rehab or mental health programs may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, addiction, or trauma. It’s common for individuals in this stage of treatment to feel like they’ve hit rock bottom. This first stage works to remove problematic behaviors, life-threatening behaviors, and behaviors that interfere with therapy for the person’s life. Therapists may also teach clients how addiction happens and how to work through its causes.
  • Stage 2: In the second stage, behaviors are normally more stable, but mental health issues may still occur. Emotional pain and traumatic experiences usually reveal themselves during this stage of dialectical behavioral therapy. The goal of stage two is to encourage patients to explore this pain and express it to work on developing a healthy coping mechanism. Therapists work with clients to reduce symptoms related to trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and any issues that invalidate their childhood experiences.
  • Stage 3: Stage three of DBT is centered on setting realistic goals to achieve steady progress. Therapy is not a race, and therapists and clients concentrate on promoting happiness and stability in this phase. Therapists also encourage clients to trust themselves and their ability to progress.
  • Stage 4: The last stage of dialectical behavioral therapy is focused on finding happiness through a spiritual existence. Some patients need to discover a deeper meaning of life and themselves and often do so through spirituality. Some patients turn to certain religions and beliefs to better themselves and progress in recovery.

Think DBT may be a good option for yourself or someone else with a mental illness or addiction? Call us now at 888-280-4763 to learn more about the levels of care offered at Banyan facilities.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.