With so many addiction therapy options available, it’s important to understand what each method of treatment entails. Having a strong knowledge of each treatment method will help someone make the best decisions around their treatment during the recovery journey. On the other hand, lacking knowledge could mean participating in therapies that prove less than beneficial. Dialectical behavior therapy, also known as DBT therapy is an option offered through our Los Angeles addiction treatment programs.

What is Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and How Does it Work?

Dialectical behavior therapy in Los Angeles is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy that emphasizes how a person behaves in their relationships. Unlike mainstream therapies that try to identify why a person does something, therapies like DBT aim to look at one’s thoughts and actions in the present moment. 

Dialectical means “the integration of opposites.” The strategies taught in DBT enable the patient to let go of their extreme positions in situations. In other words, DBT keeps therapy balanced so patients can achieve their goals.Women after benefiting from our DBT therapy in Los Angeles

DBT teaches us how to live in the moment. Patients of DBT learn how to cope with grief and stress, regulate their emotions, and improve relationships. For instance, people living with mental health disorders like borderline personality disorder tend to have sudden bursts of intense emotion. The goal of our Los Angeles DBT therapy is to help people control these intense emotions with several techniques. 

Principles of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

The theory of “dialectics” follows 3 main principles:

  • Everything is connected
  • Change is unavoidable
  • Opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation of the truth

In DBT, patients are encouraged to look at their therapists as allies. During treatment, therapists practice validation. In this case, therapists examine the patients’ views as acceptable and valid, even if that isn’t necessarily the case. They also help patients identify negative behaviors in order to show them an alternative way of living.

The Focuses of Our Los Angeles DBT Therapy

DBT therapy in Los Angeles helps clients work through painful emotions. At this time, therapists also teach them how to maintain positive, healthy relationships. It includes 4 major areas of focus to help clients learn the skills needed to maintain sobriety after treatment.

These areas are:


Mindfulness teaches the individual how to be more present and accepting of the current moment. When someone is mindful, they can better control their emotions and enjoy better relationships.

DBT teaches 6 mindfulness skills. These 6 skills are into “what” and “how.” “What” skills teach someone what they’re focusing on at the moment, like their emotions and thoughts. These skills are what a person does when practicing mindfulness. The “what” skills are: 

  • Describe. Put what they’ve observed into words.
  • Observe. Pay attention to the present moment.
  • Participate. Get fully involved in the present activity.

On the other hand, the “how” skills teach them how to be more mindful. These skills are:

  • Effectively. Doing what works.
  • Non-judgmentally. Describing the facts of what’s happening.
  • One-mindfully. Focusing on 1 thing at a time.

Distress Tolerance

Dealing with the loss of a loved one, a sudden career change, or divorce can be difficult. A focus on distress tolerance helps the patient increase their threshold for negative emotions and work through them instead of trying to escape. Instead of, say, engaging in destructive behavior, patients practice distress tolerance to accept and deal with stress as it happens.

Distress tolerance teaches people how to deal with stress in 4 ways: self-soothing, distracting, improving the moment, and thinking of the pros and cons of not tolerating distress. Some acceptance skills are taught with distress tolerance. These include willingness versus willfulness, radical acceptance, and turning the mind toward acceptance. Distress tolerance will help the client have a better long-term outlook on life.

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation enables a patient to better handle the intense emotions they might be feeling. Ideally, they learn to accept, manage, and change these emotions for the better to work towards a more positive outcome. In emotional regulation, patients learn how to properly label their emotions. They also can avoid giving in to emotional urges, maintain mindfulness of their emotions, and increase the emotions that have positive effects. By learning how to control their feelings, patients can figure out how to react more positively to intense situations. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

The area of interpersonal effectiveness focuses on teaching the patient how to be a more effective communicator. This includes communication skills that allow people to be assertive, respectful and an overall healthier individual with whom to have a relationship. Interpersonal effectiveness also teaches patients how to listen better and properly deal with difficult people. By being more effective in their interpersonal relationships, a person can communicate their needs to others and navigate conflict in a healthy way. 

Components of the Best DBT Therapy in Los Angeles

Dialectical behavior therapy in Los Angeles can be broken down into the following components:

  • Skills training. Skills training occurs during group sessions. They help the patient strengthen the skills they’ve learned in previous sessions. This means learning to live in the moment, working through painful events and emotions, and creating healthy boundaries in relationships.
  • Individual therapy. One-on-one sessions help a patient grow more motivated both during and after treatment. Here, they learn how to apply the skills they’ve learned to everyday scenarios. Self-harming and suicidal behaviors are addressed first. Next are post-traumatic stress responses as well as responses that might interfere with therapy. In individual therapy, the counselor will work on the patient’s self-respect, self-image, and social skills.
  • Independence. As the patient learns independence, they learn to be their own advocate and case manager. They learn how to talk about their emotions in ways that allow them to receive the support and help they need from others. They also learn how to properly problem-solve on their own.
  • Support system. This component of DBT helps the patient build the support system they need both during and after treatment. This can include therapists, family members, friends, and treatment peers.
  • Collaborative. Counselors and patients are constantly working together in DBT. People in DBT are encouraged to work out their relationships with their friends and loved ones.
  • Cognitive-based. As a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy, DBT helps pinpoint emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that are negatively affecting relationships.
  • Phone coaching: This is a helpful option for patients who need extra support. DBT counselors help them apply skills they have learned to real-world situations. 

DBT Homework and Exercises

Homework and exercises in DBT can include role-playing and written assignments. Each DBT module is usually assigned a different kind of exercise or pertaining to that module.

A common exercise for practicing interpersonal effectiveness is learning the acronym GIVE, which helps the patient communicate and maintain relationships: 

  • Gentle. Don’t threaten, judge, or attack. Use appropriate language when speaking.
  • Interested. Act interested in what is being said. Don’t interrupt the person to speak.
  • Validate. Acknowledge the person’s situation as well as their thoughts and feelings.
  • Easy manner. Stay lighthearted and smile throughout the conversation.

For emotional regulation, a person might learn the acronym PLEASE, which helps people have healthier bodies and overall healthier emotions:

  • Physical illness (treat). Get treatment if sick.
  • Eating (balanced). Ensure satisfaction after eating.
  • Avoid mood-altering drugs. These drugs can make moods unpredictable.
  • Sleep (balanced). Sleep an average of 8 hours a night.
  • Exercise. Exercise to release endorphins and improve body image.

A popular distress tolerance homework assignment is doing the opposite of what they’re feeling and putting their body in charge. This can mean getting up and walking around if one feels like sitting, or going outside if they feel like staying indoors.

Woman receiving dbt therapy in Los Angeles

The Difference Between DBT and CBT Therapy

While DBT is a branch of cognitive-behavioral therapy, both have a few similar basic principles while focusing on different things.

DBT concentrates on a person’s interactions in different environments and relationships. It involves individual, group, and phone coaching sessions. CBT, on the other hand, uses structured, one-on-one sessions that center a person’s overall thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the moment. Counselors who practice DBT feel that some people react to relationships more intensely than the average person. 

Who is DBT Therapy in Los Angeles For?

People who find regulating their emotions difficult are prime candidates for DBT. The therapy is especially helpful in treating those with borderline personality disorder. DBT also helps people with the following conditions:

  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorders
  • Major depressive disorder

At LA Detox, we can speak with clients about all of our different therapy options, including DBT, and help them figure out which is best for them.

Begin DBT Therapy in Los Angeles Today

Do you believe Dialectical behavior therapy could help you in your journey toward sobriety? Learn how our DBT therapy in Los Angeles can help you today. Contact us and we can help answer any of your questions about DBT and the various other types of therapy that can help you throughout your recovery journey.