When we walk into therapy, we typically don’t know what to expect. All that we know is that we have a lot of issues that we want to work on – because in the past, we’ve used alcohol or other substances to cover up the pain we’ve been experiencing. This pain may have derived from recent events, or could date back all the way to childhood; nonetheless, it weighs heavily on the mind, body and spirit. Therapy is an excellent place to explore our thoughts, emotions and sensations – because it’s a safe place where people can talk out how they’re feeling with a third party who respects them and wants to help them work through these issues. If you’ve recently begun your journey to recovery, know that therapy can be one of the most transformational aspects of your life if you let it- – and the right therapist will be able to serve as a roadmap to take you where you need to be (given that you put in the work, of course).
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
We all have different needs in therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) isn’t for everyone. However, there are many beautiful benefits of using this approach in therapy, especially for issues pertaining to negative thought patterns. Oftentimes, our life events shape the way we think about ourselves, others and the world around us. We become more pessimistic, less empathetic, and more cold towards people – but what happens is that these initial reactions to upsetting events, or even from the way we were raised, begin to plant seeds in the mind for how we should continue to think and react.
According to Very Well Mind in 2018, DBT was originally created to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD) – but since it’s creation in the late 1980s, it’s adapted to help treat other disorders, too. What many people experience is this form of “black and white” thinking, which essentially brings a person to extremes. The following are some examples:
- Automatically thinking that a person hates you because they haven’t been talking to much recently
- Quickly assuming that your professor is “out to get you” because they gave you a low grade on your last essay response
- Feeling as though you hate your life because you had a bad day
These types of thoughts may feel harmless in the moment, but they truly prep your mind to form thought patterns that continue on this realm of negativity. DBT counteracts these unhelpful, unproductive thought patterns by helping a person accept the “gray” areas – because the world does not operate in a “love” or “hate” state only.
A 2015 article highlighted by In the Forefront, an organization aiming to promote suicide prevention, quoted a young man who expressed how DBT helped him. He stated that it gave him, “…a rubric for figuring out what was causing my anxiety, anger or sadness – and new options for how to behave in light of it.”
Using the examples provided above, DBT helps a person view these seemingly troubling situations in the following light:
- Sometimes people get very busy, and that’s probably why they haven’t texted or called lately
- The professor likely issued a lower grade on the essay because it was lacking certain criteria that was required to get an “A” – but just to be sure, a meeting can be arranged to discuss the details of the grading rubric
- A bad day doesn’t make for a bad life – and a person can get through this
There are three main premises that DBT is based on: 1) everything is interconnected, 2) change is constant and inevitable, and 3) opposites can be integrated to get to a closer version of the truth. Many people find that DBT is uncomfortable at first because it does ask that a person accept two opposing statements – such as, “I don’t like you right now and I love you” or “I’m not happy with how my life is going currently and that’s okay”. With DBT, acceptance is a challenging but worthwhile lesson to learn – and what many find is that once that “gray” area feels less scary, thoughts become much more manageable.
Moving Forward in Recovery
DBT tends to help those in addiction recovery by providing them with a different way of looking at their thoughts. This new relationship with their thought patterns tends to help change some of their perceptions on triggering events, and this is when many people find transformation in their recovery. It’s common for those in recovery to have previously relied on substances in the past – either out of anger, sadness or something similar. DBT helps take away the “extremes” that can become conjured up in our minds sometimes and lets us know that “it’s okay” – even if certain events in our lives aren’t going the way we’d like for them to.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.