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Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.” An individual struggling with addiction will prioritize satisfying his or her cravings (e.g., drugs, sex, gambling, etc.) above all else. Addiction will affect every facet of an individual’s life. If left untreated addiction can lead to severe short and long-term consequences. Fortunately, there are a variety of addiction treatment options available in Southern California. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Marsha M. Linehan initially developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in the 1980s, to help treat chronically suicidal people with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of therapy. Since its inception, dialectical behavior therapy has been and remains the gold standard method of treatment for individuals diagnosed with BPD and has also proven effective in treating individuals with other mental health conditions, including addiction. DBT utilizes four main strategies for teaching individuals’ skills that help with effectively changing their behaviors. They include the following, as provided by Behavioral Tech

  1. Core Mindfulness: the practice of remaining present and fully in the moment at any given time.
  2. Distress Tolerance: learning to tolerate pain in challenging situations, without changing it or escalating it.
  3. Interpersonal Effectiveness: increasing one’s self-awareness and effectively advocating for one’s own wants and needs in a relationship in a way that is both self-respecting and non-damaging. 
  4. Emotion Regulation: decreasing emotional impulsivity, learning to manage and shift intense, problematic emotions.

DBT is comprised of three distinct settings: weekly individual therapy sessions, weekly DBT group skills training sessions, and as-needed phone coaching. The entire DBT program (provided skills modules are not repeated) usually lasts about six months long, as approximately six weeks are allocated to each of the four skills modules. 

DBT and Addiction

Every person is unique and will respond distinctly to the array of treatment methods available. For this reason, a customized treatment plan provides everyone with the highest potential for a successful recovery. There are many different types of treatment options and therapeutic modalities that can be incorporated into one’s treatment plan.  Depending on one’s needs, including DBT into one’s treatment plan can be integral to one’s recovery process. The DBT format affords both the ability to offer personalized therapeutic support through the individual therapy sessions, as well as peer support though the DBT skills group sessions. To provide the most effective addiction treatment, including a variety of different types of therapies in one’s treatment plan is often advantageous.


The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health.  As such, please do not use any material provided above as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.

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