WILL DBT HELP ME?
A hard week at work. A quarrel with a loved one. Money worries. For many, drugs and alcohol are ways to cope with the feelings these stressful events produce. The effects of addictive substances both distract from and numb emotions, giving a person the temporary freedom to forget about their troubles and pretend everything’s fine.
Using addictive substances as coping mechanisms instead of finding healthy ways to resolve conflict and handle difficult emotions is a highly destructive behavior pattern. Eventually, people may have no coping skills other than substance use, leaving them feeling helpless without picking up a glass, a pill bottle, or a needle.
Resisting the impulse to use substances instead of confronting one’s problems requires a person to truly understand their emotions and build new, positive behavior patterns. This is where dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) comes into play.
DBT helps people develop self-regulating skills by focusing on acceptance, mindfulness, and positive ways to intervene with conflict. With DBT, people learn to avoid triggering situations, harmful thought patterns and develop healthy coping strategies.
What Can DBT Treat?
Fundamentally, DBT views the mind as consisting of three parts. One part represents the reasonable mind, the part of our brains driven by logic. The other part represents the emotional mind, the part of our brains driven by feelings and emotions.
By causing the brain to release large amounts of chemicals which make us feel good, substance abuse physically alters how the brain functions. Drugs and alcohol help the emotional mind manage unpleasant and painful emotions while drowning out the rational mind’s attempts to govern behavior.
DBT develops the wise mind, a third part of the mind. The wise mind acts as a middle ground between logic and feelings. DBT teaches people how to use their wise minds to understand their emotions and use their reasonable minds to resist the impulse to use drugs as a way to cope with emotions.
DBT In Action: TIPP Skills
DBT uses various skills to teach emotional regulation and resilience. TIPP skills are a good example of these skills. They’re a group of four exercises aimed at raising one’s tolerance for distress. TIPP skills consist of:
Like all skills learned with DBT, TIPP skills help people manage themselves and their emotions without relying on harmful addictive substances.
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