Along with the learning curve that is recovery itself, there is a lot of vocabulary surrounding different therapy methods. Chances are good that we didn’t even know that there were different types of therapy. Amongst all of the different types, one is highly recommended for substance use recovery, and yet the name can seem a little confusing. What exactly is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is effective because it combines two opposing ideas or forces, which is what dialectical means. In DBT, those opposing ideas are acceptance and change. On the one hand, acceptance is a peaceful, static concept, while change represents movement and anything from transformation to revolution. Combining these two opposite concepts creates a powerful force within us and gives us the ability to navigate our lives in dynamic new ways.
The Power of Acceptance
Often what creates a crisis in our life is what we make up about what has happened or what is happening to us, and mentally or literally fighting those things, whether real or imagined. Learning to simply accept what is going on, without judgment, gives us the power to more clearly see the world without our own emotional lenses. When we do this, our reactions are very different, and we are able to interact more effectively with the world around us.
The Power of Change
So often we say that we want to change, but we don’t take action. Some of the things that can stop us are a distraction, fear, worthiness, and more. When we take away the things which prevent us from acting, we learn how to take action. We can be the force for change in our own lives and in others when we harness the powers that are already within us.
As we are in therapy in our recovery, we also learn powerful new skills in DBT that help us to unleash our full potential. These skills include:
• Mindfulness – this is that acceptance piece, being present and accepting what is in front of us, without judgment. This takes practice and is best learned and honed in mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a skill that when used consistently in our lives allows us greater peace and the ability to function more effectively in all areas of our lives.
• Stress Management – life happens. It is our reaction to it that makes life stressful. In DBT, we learn how to manage the stress in our lives so that we are not buried by it. Learning to function while things are still happening all around us is a crucial skill for those of us who often have more than our fair share of stressors.
• Communication – even if we excel in public communication, often we can use some improvement in our personal communication skills. We can improve at everything from the actual words we speak to our tone and our body language. Specifically, we can learn to be an advocate for ourselves, to ask for what we want and what we need. We can learn to ask in ways that we will actually get what we need, to communicate more effectively in all areas of our lives.
• Emotional Regulation – emotions can control us, or we can control them. When emotions control us, we don’t have a lot of control over the outcome of our lives. When we learn to regulate our emotions, to match them to what is going on around us, those same emotions can work for us and create peace and harmony within us and with the people around us. Emotional regulation is not about trying to meet some kind of societal norm, it is about our brain reacting appropriately. For example, dropping a coin should not elicit the same response as nearly being hit by a large truck when crossing the street. One is harmless, the other potentially fatal. However, substance use can cause our brains to react similarly in very different situations, and emotional regulation helps us take that power of appropriate emotional response back.
The Power of DBT in Recovery
The very concept of DBT is perfect for recovery: we are in need of peace and change simultaneously. The power of the opposing forces gives us the power to make the big changes we need at this point in our lives. DBT is also very empowering, giving us the driver’s seat in our own recovery, but also not making us as dependent on a rigid system or other people to maintain our recovery. We can use the skills of mindfulness, stress management, communication, and emotional regulation on a daily basis, beginning when we are first in treatment, and continuing throughout our lives. DBT can heal us, teach us, and give us the power to change now and for our future.
Even if it is difficult to remember the term Dialectical Behavior Therapy, be sure to remember DBT. By harnessing the dynamic duo of acceptance and change, you can heal from your past and create an all-new future for yourself. Find the skills, learn how to apply them to your unique life and situation, and create peace and transformation in your world. DBT is a gamechanger when you are in recovery, changing the course of your life permanently.
Change the course of your life at AToN Center by calling (888) 813-5928 today. There are a wide variety of methods and therapies waiting to help you change your life.