Therapeutic Methods
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

What is DBT? DBT is the abbreviated version of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, a commonly employed therapeutic technique that is particularly helpful when it comes to mental health and substance abuse recovery. DBT is one of the many evidence-based therapies that we regularly utilize at the Plymouth House. DBT is very similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — in fact, it is actually a branch of CBT. It predominantly differs in the sense that it focuses more on developing healthy social skills and learning how to regulate emotions.

DBT was originally developed to help people struggling with persistent and unhealthy emotions and related behavioral patterns — specifically people who had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Healthy relationships are a fundamental part of DBT, and learning how to develop and maintain healthy relationships often begins with the relationship formed between the guest and his or her DBT practitioner. This therapeutic method can be employed in an individual or group therapy setting, though most of the work is done one-on-one with a licensed therapist/DBT specialist. To learn more about the role of DBT in our comprehensive therapeutic program, contact us today.

The History of DBT

This therapeutic method was first developed in the late 1980s. Dr. Marsha Linehan had been utilizing CBT to help patients suffering from borderline personality disorder. However, she and her colleagues realized that CBT alone was not a sufficient treatment option for BPD sufferers. She and her colleagues subsequently developed a somewhat similar but unique therapeutic method that was specially designed to meet the needs of these patients. It was soon discovered that DBT was effective in treating a variety of underlying issues — not just BPD, but also substance abuse and dependence, generalized anxiety disorder, a range of depressive disorders, eating disorders and other behavioral addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. Today, DBT is utilized as a fundamental part of many therapeutic treatment programs — including that offered by the Plymouth House.

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DBT Strategies & Techniques

There are several core strategies that are employed during DBT-focused therapy sessions. These include:

Core Mindfulness – Mindfulness is an important part of DBT. Developing mindfulness skills helps people live in the present moment and acknowledge thoughts and feelings without self-judgement. Guests learn a variety of mindfulness techniques that will ultimately help them slow down and tune into their senses when they are dealing with a high-stress situation or going through something emotionally difficult.

Impersonal Effectiveness – This strategy concerns learning how to communicate personal needs and set and maintain boundaries in relationships without compromising the integrity of the relationship. Guests learn how to calmly and effectively communicate how they are feeling while respecting themselves and the other person. They learn how to say “no” whenever necessary, and they learn the importance of engaging in self-care and taking care of their own requirements.

Distress Tolerance – This technique helps guests learn what actions to take in the midst of a personal crisis. There are four main techniques that are taught: self-soothing, improving the moment, distraction and working through pros and cons. This technique helps guests prepare for intense emotional upset, and work through situations that might otherwise lead to relapse.

Emotional Regulation – Everyone experiences intense negative emotions on occasion. We all feel intense bouts of anger, sadness and hopelessness, usually based on our current circumstances. DBT helps guests identify these emotions along with their root cause. Once they identify what they are feeling, they are better equipped to work through the negative emotion in a healthy and productive way. Guests are equipped with a variety of skills and coping mechanisms that help them work towards emotional regulation, ultimately learning how to change the way they are feeling.

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The Benefits of DBT

There are many proven benefits of DBT, including:

Working towards self-acceptance – Guests learn how to accept themselves and their current circumstances. They learn how to stay grounded in the present moment and take things in stride. They develop skills that help them make positive changes when it comes to the ways in which they interact with themselves and with the world around them.

Becoming comfortable with change – Change can be scary, and fear of change keeps a lot of people stuck in their old ways of thinking and behaving. One of the main benefits of DBT is growing comfortable with change, and beginning to view changes in a positive light.

Learning how to replace self-destructive behavioral patterns with healthy and productive ones – Guests learn how to analyze their own detrimental behavioral patterns without self-judgement. They learn how to replace unhealthy ways of behaving while working towards comprehensive healing.

Changing unhealthy thinking patterns – Guests learn how to identify negative thinking patterns that are not beneficial or helpful, and they learn how to replace self-defeating thoughts with positive ones.

Learning how to work collaboratively with others – Guests learn how to communicate in healthy and effective ways, and they begin working collaboratively with the treatment team. They learn how to express their personal needs and concerns, and they begin to understand that they play a fundamental role in their own recovery process.

Developing a new and beneficial skill set – Guests learn a new set of healthy coping mechanisms and life skills that is geared towards helping them avoid relapse for years to come. Guests are able to call upon the skills they learn in real life situations once residential inpatient treatment comes to an end.

Receiving support from your therapist and from your peers – It can be difficult to accept support, especially for those who are new to recovery and who might have a difficult time trusting the intentions of others. During DBT sessions guests begin learning that they can rely on other people for support, encouragement and advice.

It takes time to achieve these benefits. DBT is not a “single session” remedy for underlying issues — in order to reap these benefits, a person must commit to a long-term program of clinical care. At the Plymouth House we encourage all of our guests to commit to longer than the two week minimum required in the residential inpatient portion of our multi-phased program. The longer a guest stays actively engaged in DBT, the more he or she will benefit in the long-run. To learn more about DBT or more about our therapeutic program as a whole, contact us today.

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The Plymouth House is a 12-Step retreat and addiction treatment center nestled in the picturesque foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Our campus sits on 60 acres of natural land and is an idyllic place for individuals to begin laying the foundation for lifelong mental health and addiction recovery. Since 2002 The Plymouth House has been utilizing an intense 12-Step process to help individuals recover from addiction. In 2021, The Plymouth House joined Guardian Recovery Network, a national leader in substance use disorder treatment. The Plymouth House has combined its expertise as a successful 12-Step retreat with Guardian’s world-class medical and clinical care, providing guests with a unique approach to comprehensive recovery. With a combination of evidence-based therapies like DBT, 12-step program involvement and a range of holistic treatment options, we provide every guest with the tools and coping mechanisms they need to maintain fulfilling sobriety for years to come.

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