Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): An Effective Treatment For Addiction

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): An Effective Treatment For Addiction

DBT at Castle Craig

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Addiction is a challenging journey, and if you or someone you care about is struggling, it’s important you know that there are resources available that can provide practical and compassionate help – one of these being Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). It combines techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy with concepts from mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance to foster personal growth and recovery.

If you’re seeking a path towards recovery that fosters understanding rather than judgement, then it’s likely you’ll benefit from DBT.

In this article, we’ll explore how this treatment works, and what it’s used for and introduce you to our team of specialists who can guide you on your journey toward healing and growth.

dialectical behaviour therapy

What is DBT Used For?

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was originally developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s as a form of cognitive behavioural therapy used for treating borderline personality disorder (BPD) and chronic suicidal behaviour, but its effectiveness has expanded to other areas including substance use disorders. DBT has also proven to be helpful for people with a dual diagnosis, meaning they have a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously.

This approach works by helping you understand your behaviours, thoughts, and intense emotions more clearly while teaching skills to manage them effectively.

How Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Works

You’re probably wondering how DBT actually works. Primarily, it’s designed to help you enhance your capabilities in distress tolerance and emotion regulation, two key DBT skills that can be challenging if you’re struggling with addiction. The benefits of DBT in the treatment of addiction are significant – it provides tools to manage painful emotions, decrease conflict in relationships and improve your ability to handle stress effectively.

Key Components of DBT:


  • Mindfulness Skills: Helps patients become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
  • Distress Tolerance: Enhances the ability to tolerate and survive crisis situations without making them worse.


  • Emotion Regulation: Offers skills to manage and change intense, unwanted emotions.
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: Helps improve communication and relationships.

Acceptance and change” are core components of DBT, which works to equip individuals with the skills to accept their present circumstances, emotions, and behaviours while also working towards changing negative patterns. This balanced approach is intended to promote emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and overall well-being.

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Acceptance in DBT

In DBT, therapists work to acknowledge and validate the patient’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. It’s a way of saying, “I hear you, and your feelings are valid.” This helps the patient feel understood and supported.

DBT incorporates mindfulness practices to help patients become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This increased awareness is a crucial first step toward acceptance.

Distress tolerance is also taught to help patients learn to tolerate and survive crises and accept life as it is, even when it’s painful or difficult. It involves coping strategies like distraction, self-soothing, and considering the pros and cons before taking action.

Mindfulness: Reasonable & Emotion Mind

Navigating life’s tumultuous seas, it’s crucial to understand the concept of a reasonable and emotional mind in mindfulness practice. This aspect of dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) encourages you to engage in both rational thinking (reasonable mind) and emotional responses (Emotional mind), fostering a balanced state of mind known as the wise mind. Meditation practices play a pivotal role in this process, promoting an enhanced mind-body connection. You’re not suppressing your emotions; instead, you’re learning to observe them without judgment, creating a safe space for self-exploration and personal growth.

The journey towards awareness cultivation often involves sensory exercises that can help ground you during moments of heightened emotion. These may include simple activities like focusing on your breath, feeling the texture of an object, or noticing the taste and smell of your favourite food – all aimed at bringing you back into the present moment.

Remember: The goal isn’t about eliminating negative feelings or thoughts; rather, it’s about understanding them better so they don’t control your actions impulsively.

As you learn to navigate these two aspects – reasonable and emotional minds – with mindfulness techniques, know that each step forward is a testament to your courage and resilience. You are not alone in this journey; there is a whole community out there supporting each other’s progress towards healthier mental states.

Distress Tolerance

Mastering distress tolerance, a key component of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), can significantly transform how you cope with the discomfort associated with withdrawal symptoms and cravings. This crucial skill set teaches you to withstand and navigate through intense emotional or physical discomfort without resorting back to any form of self-harm, such as substance use or engaging in other problematic behaviours.

By learning techniques like Crisis Survival, Radical Acceptance, and Self Soothing Techniques, you learn to face your distress head-on rather than avoiding it. Imagine yourself being able to weather any storm that comes your way without needing a crutch to lean on; that’s the power of effective Distress Coping.

Here are three compelling reasons why mastering Distress Tolerance should be part of your recovery journey:

1. Crisis Survival: It enables you to effectively manage and survive crisis periods without turning towards detrimental coping mechanisms.

2. Radical Acceptance: It helps accept reality as it is – even if it’s painful or uncomfortable – thereby reducing suffering and paving the path for change.

3. Self-Soothing Techniques: They aid in calming down your mind, and providing comfort during times of extreme distress which is especially beneficial for patients who also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

When you get a grip on these aspects of DBT, you not only empower yourself but also connect with an inspiring community who’ve walked this path before.

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Mechanisms of Change

DBT helps patients learn to manage and change intense and volatile emotions. It includes strategies to understand and name emotions, identify obstacles to changing emotions, reduce vulnerability to emotion mind, and increase positive emotional events. The change also involves acquiring and strengthening behavioural skills, which is a crucial step to transform dysfunctional patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Emotion Regulation

Emotional regulation helps you understand and manage your feelings effectively. This process isn’t about suppressing or denying feelings but about developing emotional intelligence to recognise emotional triggers and respond instead of reacting impulsively. The therapeutic efficacy of DBT lies in its ability to equip you with coping strategies that foster emotional resilience, allowing you to navigate through life’s ups and downs with a calm mind.

This technique is especially beneficial because addiction often feeds off unregulated emotions, turning small triggers into overwhelming urges. As part of DBT, emotion regulation techniques help identify negative patterns that fuel addictive behaviours while building positive habits that support recovery.

By gaining understanding and mastery over your emotions, you’re not just overcoming addiction—you’re also creating a healthier relationship with yourself and others around you. In essence, DBT’s focus on regulating emotions doesn’t only provide an effective solution against addiction—it offers a powerful tool towards achieving overall well-being.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Interpersonal effectiveness in DBT is about teaching patients the necessary skills to navigate social and interpersonal situations effectively, respecting their needs and those of others. These skills aim to foster effective communication, conflict resolution, and relationship maintenance while upholding one’s self-respect and dignity. Through mastering these DBT skills, patients can enhance their emotional well-being, social support networks, and quality of life.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): An Effective Treatment For Addiction

Benefits of DBT in the Treatment of Addiction

After understanding the role of regulating emotions, it’s crucial to delve into how DBT can be a game-changer in treating addiction. Addiction is often misunderstood and stigmatised, making recovery an uphill battle for many. However, with DBT, you’re not alone on this journey towards sobriety; this therapy places great emphasis on the therapeutic alliance – a strong, collaborative relationship between you and your therapist.

Not only does DBT tackle the tricky terrain of addiction stigma by fostering self-compassion and empathy within you, but it also encourages family involvement. Your loved ones play a vital role in your recovery process, providing much-needed support and understanding along the way. Moreover, DBT equips you with practical skills for relapse prevention, ensuring that your progress remains steady even when faced with potential setbacks.

Consider these benefits of using DBT as part of your treatment plan

•   The therapeutic alliance ensures that you’ll have professional guidance tailored to meet your specific needs.

•    With a focus on reducing addiction stigma, you’ll find an environment that encourages acceptance rather than judgment.

•    Through family involvement, those closest to you will learn how they can effectively support your journey towards sobriety.

•   Lastly, through strategies for relapse prevention, you’re more likely to maintain progress long after therapy has ended.

Incorporating these elements into your treatment plan can make all the difference.

Remember – finding help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a testament to your strength and commitment to lead a healthier life. You belong in a world where understanding trumps judgment – DBT can guide you there.

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How are DBT Sessions Provided?

When dealing with addiction or other complex mental health conditions, you may find a great deal of support through Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) sessions. DBT can be provided as part of a residential rehab programme which involves you staying at a facility and receiving around-the-clock care from professionals. Alternatively, it can also be conducted on an outpatient basis where you regularly meet with your therapist but continue to live at home.

As Part of a Residential Programme

At Castle Craig, our therapists use DBT to transform the lives of patients suffering from addiction. Combining the programme structure with the residential benefits of an inpatient facility creates a stable and supportive environment for recovery.

With DBT, you will experience personalised care tailored to your needs. Therapy sessions are designed to help you understand and manage your emotions better, teaching you coping mechanisms that will lead you to sustained recovery. What’s more, these programmes offer ongoing support even after you’ve completed treatment – ensuring that your journey towards sobriety is not a lonely one.

Here are four ways in which our DBT programme could help you

1.  Programme Structure: A well-structured routine helps maintain focus on recovery goals while minimising distractions or triggers associated with substance abuse.

2. Residential Benefits: Living within the treatment facility provides an environment conducive to healing – away from places or people that may trigger relapse.

3. Patient Experience: You receive support from our team of experienced professionals dedicated to helping you regain control over your life.

4. Recovery Success & Ongoing Support: The skills learned through DBT don’t stop working once the programme ends; they continue to provide valuable tools for managing stress and preventing relapses in everyday life.

Remember, we’re all seeking connection and belonging – this journey isn’t one you have to take alone. Through DBT in a residential setting, you’re joining a community of individuals who understand what you’re going through – offering both strength and solace during this critical period of transformation.

With a Therapist (Outpatient)

If you choose to try DBT on an outpatient basis then therapist selection plays a critical role in this journey; it’s essential to choose a professional who is trained and experienced in DBT techniques. They are there to guide you through the recovery journey, providing tools and strategies to manage addiction triggers and cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs. The therapeutic bond established with your therapist will hold together all aspects of your treatment.

Outpatient challenges may arise during this process, but remember that building resilience is part of the process, and these challenges will pave the way for growth. Therapy duration varies depending on individual needs – some might need more time while others may progress quickly. Your therapist will work collaboratively with you, ensuring each session brings you one step closer towards achieving emotional stability and overcoming addiction.

CATCH Recovery is our outpatient centre that works with patients who wish to undergo DBT as part of an outpatient plan. Whether you’ve completed treatment in a residential clinic or you’re unable to commit to a stay at an inpatient facility, our specialist addiction therapists can help.

Meet Our DBT Specialists

Our team of DBT specialists is eager to meet you and share their expertise in effectively dealing with addiction. Each specialist on our team has a unique blend of qualifications, from advanced degrees in psychology or social work to specialised skills training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).

Through years of experience, our therapists have skillfully combined traditional DBT techniques with creative problem-solving strategies tailored to each patient’s needs. They understand the importance of building a strong rapport with patients and fostering an environment where you feel heard, understood, and respected.

Craig Chalmers is a person-centred therapist originally from Edinburgh. He has extensive experience in engaging meaningfully in a therapeutic relationship with his patients, creating a safe and trusted environment for their growth. Craig holds qualifications from COSCA, BACP, and PERSONA, with additional training in DBT, Trauma, and Mindfulness, specialising in addiction and alcoholism.

Having personal experience in addiction recovery, Craig has significant expertise in working with the 12-step program. He has also worked extensively with men who have suffered from childhood sex abuse and other traumas.

As a therapist, Craig brings warmth and passion to his work, ensuring that his patients feel fully heard and understood. He is dedicated to forming genuine connections and helping individuals on their recovery journey.

Start Your Journey to Freedom Today 

Don’t let addiction define your story any longer. At Castle Craig, we are here to guide you toward a life of healing, strength, and renewed purpose. 

We understand that your journey is unique, and so is your treatment plan. We personalise our approach to meet your specific needs, empowering you to break free from the cycle of addiction. 


1 A comparative study of the effectiveness of group-based cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy in reducing depressive symptoms in Iranian women substance abusers

2 What Are Distress Tolerance Skills? Your Ultimate DBT Toolkit

3 The ability to regulate emotion is associated with greater well-being, income, and socioeconomic status

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