The field of addiction treatment has evolved significantly over the years, recognizing the need for evidence-based approaches that address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan, has emerged as a highly effective treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring mental health issues. With the advancement of technology, telehealth has become a viable option for delivering DBT services, opening up new possibilities for those seeking help. Today, the experts of our Banyan Telehealth Program are exploring the feasibility and effectiveness of telehealth DBT services for substance abuse.

What Is DBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a specialized form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that was originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s. It was initially designed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) but has since been expanded and proven effective for various other mental health disorders, including addictions, eating disorders, and mood disorders.

DBT is founded on the dialectical philosophy, which emphasizes the synthesis of opposing concepts or ideas. In the context of therapy, it means finding a balance between acceptance and change. Kep components of DBT include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group skills training
  • Phone coaching
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Emotion regulations
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

DBT incorporates principles and techniques from CBT, mindfulness, and other therapeutic techniques to aid individuals in developing essential skills for emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and acceptance.

Can DBT Therapy Be Done Virtually?

Although dialectical behavior therapy traditionally involves in-person sessions, the digital age has transformed the way healthcare services are delivered, making virtual DBT a reality. Telehealth platforms have seen significant growth, especially in the realm of mental health services, enabling therapists to connect with patients remotely. Therefore, DBT therapy can be done virtually through these platforms, provided certain prerequisites are met.

DBT prerequisites include:

  • Secure communication: Ensuring the privacy and security of patient information is of the utmost importance in virtual DBT, which is why specialists in a telehealth treatment program must use encrypted and HIPAA-compliant platforms to protect sensitive data.
  • Access to technology: Both therapists and patients should have access to reliable internet connections (Wi-Fi) and compatible devices such as smartphones, tablets, or computers to receive care.
  • Video conferencing: Telehealth DBT sessions typically require real-time video conferencing to facilitate face-to-face meetings, which are crucial to the therapy.
  • Virtual resources: Therapists may need to provide digital resources, worksheets, or access to DBT materials online to support the therapy process.
  • Patient comfort: Patients should feel comfortable and confident using telehealth platforms for therapy, which may require some initial training or orientation regarding the use of online programs.

Is Online DBT Effective?

The effectiveness of online dialectical behavior therapy for addiction has been the subject of extensive research. Virtual DBT can be as effective as in-person therapy for addressing addiction and related mental health concerns. However, the effectiveness of these services may vary depending on individual factors and the specific telehealth platform used.

Benefits of DBT Telehealth

  • Accessibility: Virtual DBT services increase accessibility, particularly for individuals who may face barriers to in-person treatment, such as commuting constraints or mobility issues.
  • Consistency: Telehealth allows for more consistent engagement in therapy, as individuals can attend sessions from the comfort of their homes. This reduces the likelihood of missing appointments.
  • Cost-efficiency: The online DBT experience can be more cost-effective for both therapists and patients, eliminating the need for travel and reducing overhead costs.
  • Personalized care: Telehealth platforms offer personalized and tailored DBT interventions, allowing therapists to adapt treatment plans to individual needs.
  • Positive outcomes: Online DBT can lead to significant reductions in substance use, improved emotional regulation, and enhanced coping skills among individuals with addiction, all of which foster long-term sobriety.

Challenges and Considerations

While telehealth DBT for addiction is generally beneficial, it is not without its challenges:

  • Technical issues: Internet problems or technical glitches can disrupt sessions and impact the therapeutic process. For instance, the client may be in the middle of a deep or vulnerable conversation, and this disruption can impact their desire to keep sharing.
  • Lack of non-verbal cues: Online sessions may lack some non-verbal cues that are important for therapists to assess clients' emotional states accurately.
  • Patient engagement: Some individuals may find it challenging to concentrate during virtual therapy sessions and may require additional support and guidance.
  • Emergencies: Managing crises and emergencies in a virtual setting can be more complex, which is why therapists need to have clear protocols in place.

These factors do not discredit the efficacy of telehealth DBT sessions. However, this treatment may not be for everyone. If you’re interested in trying online DBT, consider the pros and cons mentioned above. We also encourage you to call our telehealth team to learn more about all of our services.

The Virtual DBT Experience With Banyan

Understanding the patient experience in online DBT is crucial for assessing its effectiveness. Our online dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) services for addiction have shown promise in research and practice.

Virtual DBT can be effective when conducted through secure and HIPAA-compliant telehealth platforms, provided that both therapists and patients have access to the necessary technology. While online DBT offers numerous benefits, such as increased accessibility and lower costs, it also presents challenges related to technical issues and the potential lack of non-verbal cues.

Therefore, keep in mind that the patient experience varies, with convenience and reduced stigma being among the positive aspects, while technical frustrations and distractions are some of the challenges reported. As technology continues to advance, online DBT services will become an increasingly valuable option for individuals seeking effective addiction treatment.

If you or someone you care about is interested in our telehealth addiction treatment, don’t wait to reach out. Our telehealth services are offered at numerous nationwide Banyan rehab locations, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and more. Contact Banyan Telehealth today to schedule a one-on-one consultation with a specialist.