When it comes to recovering from your drug or alcohol addiction and preventing relapse, 12-step programs aren’t the only way to sustain your recovery. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is becoming an increasingly useful method for maintaining recovery from your addiction, and even has many similarities with traditional 12-step programs.
Below is a look at these two methods and how they compare when it comes to treating your addiction.
12-Step Programs for Addiction Treatment
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) first developed a 12-step program to help recovering alcoholics maintain sobriety. Now, many addiction treatment centers use 12-step programs as part of their addiction treatment programs and aftercare plans.
A 12-step program teaches several tenets to follow to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse, including the following:
- Learning to admit that you can’t control your addiction
- Examining past mistakes
- Making amends
- Helping others who suffer from the same addictions
- Recognizing a higher power to give you strength
Twelve-step programs consist of regular meetings with peers. Interacting with people who have shared a similar experience and listening to their stories give people in recovery a lot of courage to stay sober. When you participate in a 12-step program, you will pair with a mentor who will help you maintain your recovery and provide needed support.
DBT for Addiction Treatment
Pioneered by Marsha Linehan, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). However, it is growing in popularity as a treatment for substance abuse.
DBT teaches four main skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. These DBT skills are used in addiction treatment to help maintain recovery and prevent relapse in the following ways:
- Mindfulness techniques help you learn to live in the moment and acknowledge that “urges” to use will eventually pass.
- Distress tolerance skills can help you effectively deal with situations that trigger relapse.
- Emotional regulation will help you channel emotional energy proactively.
- Interpersonal effectiveness skills can help improve your important relationships.
DBT skills, which are taught through individual and group therapy, aim to promote abstinence by promoting change in your behaviors. You will work with a trained DBT therapist to learn and practice these skills to change how you handle your day-to-day life.
Similarities between 12-Step and DBT
Dialectical Behavior Therapy and 12-step programs have marked similarities. The primary goal of each method is to change behaviors, emotions, and thinking patterns that cause problems or relapse. Here are some other similarities between DBT and 12-step programs:
- Both methods strongly emphasize improving interpersonal relationships, and learning to get your needs and wants met.
- Mindfulness is encouraged as a practice in both 12-step programs and DBT.
- Gaining acceptance of yourself and your actions.
- The skills learned through both methods require continual practice – they can’t just be learned once and forgotten.
- Learning to let go of emotional suffering and take care of yourself.
- Surrendering your old beliefs and ways of doing things and trusting you will find a new way to live your life.
- Honesty with yourself and others.
- Learning to be nonjudgmental of yourself and others.
- Reducing your vulnerability to relapse.
Which Is Right for You?
Both 12-step programs and Dialectical Behavior Therapy have proven effective in maintaining recovery from addiction and preventing relapse. A good addiction treatment center will incorporate both DBT skills and 12-step principles to give you the best chance at finding the skills and support you need to make a lasting recovery from your addiction.