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Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is one of the many forms of psychotherapy we incorporate into our treatment services at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry. We’ll take a closer look at what exactly DBT is below and how it can help in addiction recovery.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)?

Dialectical behavior therapy is an adapted form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for individuals who experience intense emotions, such as patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD), post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, and other mental health conditions that can trigger complex, overwhelming thoughts and feelings. DBT is a psychotherapy that uses a talk-based approach to help patients understand their thought patterns and how these impact their emotions and behaviors.

“Dialectical” is a term used to describe the combination of opposing thoughts or ideas. DBT therapists work with the patient to their current reality as it is and then begin taking strides to change what they have control over, including their thought patterns, emotions, behaviors, and responses to external stimuli.

How is DBT Used in Addiction Recovery?

DBT can be effectively used in addiction recovery due to its focus on changing behaviors and thought patterns associated with substance use or other forms of addiction. Similarly, DBT teaches mindfulness, which is a significant component of overcoming relapse urges. When you’re experiencing overwhelming emotions or urges to use, you can bring yourself back into the present with these techniques for coping and controlling intense thoughts and feelings.

Who Can Lead A DBT Session?

DBT sessions are led by trained mental health professionals who are clinically certified in the field of behavioral therapy.

The Role of DBT in Family Therapy

Family therapy, especially for addiction treatment, can bring about intense emotions in everyone involved. DBT techniques can promote better communication in family therapy sessions and encourage individuals to address their emotional needs before trying to “fix” others’ problems. For example, when everyone puts their “oxygen mask” on first before helping others, it gives them a greater ability to be there for others without the expense of their mental and physical well-being.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry

Our licensed clinical psychologists at Fifth Avenue Psychiatry are specially trained in DBT practices as part of their strong background in psychology. They work with our patients to increase mindfulness and distress tolerance skills while teaching healthy coping skills to regulate intense emotions. Our DBT treatment targets individuals who struggle with chemical dependency, mood disorders, and self-harming behaviors. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can serve you and your loved ones.


DBT is an adapted form of cognitive behavioral therapy, with the difference being that DBT is designed for patients who experience emotions much more intensely.

The four primary skills taught in DBT are core mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Like any form of psychotherapy, the length of DBT treatment will vary depending on the patient, their personal goals, and the severity of their mental health condition or addiction. On average, patients in treatment for mental health conditions will take part in DBT for around six months. Those with a substance use disorder or addiction may require DBT for up to a year or longer.