Behavioral therapy for addiction treatment is valuable

Behavioral therapy for addiction can be useful, and for some people crucial, a tool for the start of their addiction recovery. This type of therapy can take many forms and it can be used in all steps of our clinical recovery process. There are two types of behavioral therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy.

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

The main goal of behavioral therapy (BT) is to modify behaviors and attitudes. In terms of addiction, you have to change your behavior to remain abstinent from drugs. However, this goes well beyond amending behaviors. It also teaches you how to handle stressful life situations. Therapists believe that stress leads to the development of negative behaviors, such as drug use.

Furthermore, you’ll learn to observe environmental cues that can trigger bad behavior as well. Successfully identifying triggers can help you prevent relapse. The idea is that you will spot oncoming triggers and make necessary changes. However, you first have to learn what your triggers are and how to deal with them.

Both cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy are closely related. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) evolved as a separate branch of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both are valid and each of them has their merits. 

It’s important to mention that people who go through dialectical behavior therapy should be mindful of their personal needs. They may need to continue to take medication as prescribed unless otherwise instructed by their mental health professionals. DBT and CBT will not take the place of long-term therapy, clinical help for an addiction, or a 12-step program. However, some people find very helpful in their recovery journey. 

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most well-known type of behavioral therapy. In CBT the patient and the health professionals work together to stop the destructive patterns that people who suffer from an addiction disorder often follow. These destructive cycles are triggered by small incidents as well as big ones.

Here are the steps of the problem cycle:

 

  • Initial Event

Something happens in your life, like a loved one not saying that they love you like they usually do every time they leave. For many people, it might be a little worrying or it might bother them a bit. For people with unhealthy thought cycles, it can be a major event. 

 

  • Initial Thoughts

The person affected by these cycles immediately jumps to the worst thought. They might worry that the person does not love them or that they intend to leave them for good. Some individuals may feel concerned that their loved one is seeing someone else and that their whole relationship might fall apart.

 

  • Initial Emotions

Feelings like fear of abandonment and loss might come up. The person might feel the same way that they would if their loved one had actually severed contact with them.

 

  • Behavior

The person might turn to drug use, self-harm, and/or have suicidal thoughts or behaviors as a result of these powerful feelings and thoughts. The person who is going through this cycle is not simply “being dramatic”. These thoughts and emotions are very real to them. 

 

  • The Physical Reaction of the Body

Individuals who fall victim to this harmful cycle might become addicted to the drugs they use. They may suffer beyond what they had intended during self-harm. Also, those who are suffering might find that they have lost connection with close family and friends during their downward cycle. Many individuals find their physical health starting to deteriorate if they have not taken care of themselves by not eating healthily and/or fallen victim to a sedentary lifestyle.

How Does CBT Work?

CBT helps people break the destructive thought/action cycle by helping patients think objectively about their thoughts and behavior patterns. A trained CBT practitioner will help the patient safely explore their thoughts and feelings. The CBT process is largely self-enacted, but the therapist is there to help guide the person on their journey. There are also CBT groups under the care and supervision of qualified professionals.

Nearly all rehab centers offer some kind of CBT, specifically due to its effectiveness. CBT produces good results quickly, so it helps people overcome many psychological problems, learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment center programs for mental health:

During CBT, therapists work with their clients to set up goals. Then, they use these goals to track their clients’ progress. In general, however, it takes about 40 weeks to see significant improvement.

What is DBT?

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) focuses on changing behavior patterns. Therapists use this as an effective form of treatment for many mental disorders, including addiction.

During DBT, therapists get you to accept change. The first step is to help you accept your current situation. Without accepting the situation, you can’t move on to changing or modifying it. In this case, therapists work with their clients to modify behaviors and change their negative way of thinking.

Clients can get DBT in individual or group settings. Most people experience a weekly mix of individual therapy and group therapy. Each session lasts anywhere from two to three hours.

Some DBT programs even offer phone coaching, a type of long-distance assistance. It allows therapists to give clients in-the-moment strategies. Instead of clients going through situations alone, they can call their therapists for help dealing with a trigger. Some therapists believe that phone coaching is more effective than talking about the situation later.

More About Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

This type of therapy can work to help people see “shades of grey”. Patients can learn to stop seeing situations in black and white through one-on-one sessions with a therapist and in group therapy led by a mental health professional.

DBT is based on CBT and it addresses the same self-destructive cycle. The patients learn to see that many things are not completely bad or completely good. Didactical therapy was originally developed to help people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. It can also help people with:

  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Addiction Disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • And much more 

Both CBT and DBT were developed to help people with mental health disorders which are either inherently hard to treat like addiction and schizophrenia or mental health conditions in people that are resistant to other treatments. Medication can be used with CBT and DBT. You should never stop taking your medication without consulting your mental health professional. 

Will DBT Help with Addiction Recovery?

Many people with addiction disorders suffer from dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders. People with co-occurring disorders are likely to find DBT and/or CBT helpful. Dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders are two different names for conditions in which someone with a substance abuse disorder also suffer from another mental health disorder.

What are the Stages of DBT?

There are several stages to DBT:

 

  • First Stage: In stage one, the patient learns to start to control their most destructive behaviors and behavior impulses like self-harm and suicide.
  • Second Stage: This stage generally deals with the quality of life issues, distress tolerance, and traumas that the person has buried.
  • Third Stage: In stage three the person learns or relearns how to improve their relationships and self-esteem.
  • Fourth Stage: In stage four the person further learns how to stabilize and improve their relationships. They also learn how to enjoy life without drugs.

What Skills Does DBT Teach?

There are four basic skill sets that are taught in didactical behavioral therapy. These are:

 

  • Emotional regulation: Emotional regulations are a set of skills that help a person manage or change their emotions about a stressful event in their life.
  • Mindfulness: In mindfulness, a patient learns to accept and live in the present moment instead of dwelling on the past or future.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness: In interpersonal effectiveness, the patient learns to become assertive rather than being hostile or simply giving in. The individual learns to act in a way that preserves their self-respect and properly addresses the situation.
  • Distress tolerance: During distress tolerance, a person learns to tolerate stressful situations and general personal distress instead of trying to escape from it through drugs and/or self-harm.

The Importance of Group Therapy

Group therapy is a useful recovery tool that many people underestimate. During group therapy, you get a diverse group of individuals to bounce ideas off and receive input. Going through group therapy can help people who suffer from a sense of isolation. People who attend group therapy also have the opportunity to give advice and help others. This can increase the patient’s self-esteem and ease feelings of loneliness.

Behavioral Therapy at Crest View Recovery Center

If you’ve been suffering from substance abuse, there is hope for you. You can overcome addiction, no matter how long you’ve been struggling. There is no need to wait any longer to get the help you need. You can begin your journey to recovery today! 

There are many clinics, such as Crest View Recovery Center that provide both CBT and DBT. Here at Crest View Recovery Center, we carefully monitor our patients during and after behavior therapy and other recovery activities. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey and no two people have the same journey or road ahead of them. However, reaching out to others in both individual and group therapy can make all the difference in the world. 

At Crest View Recovery Center, we know it’s not easy to overcome addiction. We work closely with our clients to help them every step of the way. We offer a wide range of addiction therapy and substance abuse programs, including:

We understand that you are unique and have specific needs regarding your treatment. That’s why we work to provide an environment that facilitates a successful recovery for you and every other client here. Our team is dedicated to making sure each individual at our facility has the resources they need. So, when you are ready to start your new life, contact us online or call us at (866) 327-2505. Let us be a part of your journey to a new life!

Article Reviewed by Patrice Wishon, LCSW, LCAS, CCS

Patrice Wishon, LCSW, LCAS, CCSPatrice has over 30 years experience working in social work and mental health/substance abuse counseling. She received her Master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and has worked in a variety of settings, including community-based outpatient, hospital and classroom settings. Patrice specializes in substance abuse treatment, trauma and women’s issues.