Pathways Wellness

Learning Practical Coping Skills With Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Learning Practical Coping Skills With Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Raul Haro
August 25, 2023
When difficulties happen in life, we are reliant on coping skills to help us get through them. Sometimes someone is fortunate enough to learn healthy coping skills. In other cases, someone may develop unhealthy coping skills that end up making the problem worse. Perahps the most unhealthy coping skill of all is substance use. This […]
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Learning Practical Coping Skills With Dialectical Behavior Therapy

When difficulties happen in life, we are reliant on coping skills to help us get through them. Sometimes someone is fortunate enough to learn healthy coping skills. In other cases, someone may develop unhealthy coping skills that end up making the problem worse. Perahps the most unhealthy coping skill of all is substance use. This substance use can become a substance use disorder (SUD) and can eventually become an addiction.

Unfortunately, many don't know the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping skills. It's up to mental health care facilities, like Pathways Wellness Center, to teach clients the difference. Part of addiction treatment is learning to replace unhealthy coping skills with healthy ones.

The main way in which this is done is by utilizing dialectic behavior therapy (DBT), a type of psychotherapy that encourages clients to make a positive change in their life. One way this is done is by teaching healthy coping skills.

How Does Someone Learn Healthy Coping Skills With DBT?

When someone enrolls in Pathways Wellness Center for addiction treatment, they will receive DBT as part of their treatment plan. DBT is conducted by a licensed mental health care professional. It can either be a part of individualized therapy or given as part of group therapy. The therapist will then begin by helping the client recognize the unhealthy coping skills they have been using. Once the client can recognize them, it's time to learn about better and healthier methods of coping. 

DBT is also used to help someone accept themselves and their struggles. Many mental health disorders are chronic or can last for a long time. Learning how to work with a mental health disorder and not against it can help someone create healthy coping skills. In DBT, clients can also practice dealing with upsetting and difficult life events in a safe, encouraging environment. Learning what someone can do before the events happen can help someone prepare in advance. Think of it like practicing a fire drill. It helps you feel confident because you know what to do in case of a fire. It's the same with DBT but with serious life events.

DBT varies in length, but most treatments average around six months. Sometimes a client will need more or less time, depending on the addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders. Regardless of how long it lasts, it gives clients plenty of time to hone their new coping skills. 

What Are Some Examples of Healthy Coping Skills Learned From DBT?

Many healthy coping skills are learned from DBT. Clients are given the time and space to practice these coping skills before they finish treatment. Overall, these skills can be put into four distinct categories. These are mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotion regulation. 

Mindfulness refers to being in a mental state where one is aware of their present thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. It also means accepting these feelings and sensations and acknowledging that they are a part of being a human being. An example of a healthy coping skill is practicing meditation or yoga to help relax and calm yourself down. It's especially helpful for the recovery process as it can be used to deal with future stressful situations.

Interpersonal effectiveness is how we build and keep relationships. A client will learn coping skills that help them recognize what a healthy relationship is and build a support network. It helps someone set boundaries and stand up to peer pressure. Someone may also learn how to recognize the difference between a want and a need and balance them effectively. 

Distress tolerance is helping clients learn how to navigate instances in their lives where they may feel stress and pain. The purpose is to prevent someone from falling on unhealthy coping skills to deal with these negative feelings, such as turning to substance use. Instead, clients are taught skills such as self-care, stress relief, and turning to and accepting support. 

Emotion regulation means teaching clients how to manage their emotions healthily. Many tend to bottle up negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, until they become too much and explode. Instead, clients are taught coping skills that help them accept that they have these emotions. It doesn't make someone bad to be sad or angry. Instead, someone can learn how to channel these emotions into something productive. For example, a healthy coping skill is using art or music to help manage anger.

How Does Pathways Wellness Center Teach These Skills?

Pathways doesn't just have a client go through DBT and call it a day. Instead, clients take these coping skills learned in DBT and apply them through all aspects of treatment. Emotional regulation can be practiced through art and adventure therapy. Distress tolerance is an important part of relapse prevention. Interpersonal effectiveness is used during group therapy and peer network building. Mindfulness is utilized through sound therapy, yoga, and meditation sessions. 

All of these healthy coping skills are reinforced throughout treatment, giving clients plenty of time to hone these skills before treatment is over. Even when treatment is finished, clients are always welcome to return when needed. Learning how to accept help and turn to others when it is needed is a skill not only learned in DBT but lived by the many Pathways staff members who are currently in recovery themselves. 

If you feel as if DBT might help you or the ones you love, don't hesitate to reach out for help. The journey to recovery begins with a single step, so take the first step today.

Learning how to use healthy coping skills is an important part of a person's life. These skills help us navigate society and cope with hardships as they come. When we don't have these coping skills, a person may be tempted to cope by consuming drugs or substances. Sometimes a person may come to depend on these substances, which results in addiction. Here at Pathways Wellness Center in Glendora, California, teaching healthy coping skills is a part of every treatment plan. By helping our clients learn these skills, it helps them stay sober and sustain their recovery long after treatment is over. If you or a loved one needs help with their addiction, call (888) 771-0966.

About the Author

Raul Haro
Raul Haro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with sixteen years of experience working in both the inpatient and outpatient setting. As an LMFT, He has trained in trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Raul has furthered his training in the drug and alcohol field by obtaining a Masters in Drug and Alcohol Counseling through CCAPP. Raul has a background in nursing where he has been an LVN for over 25 years. Recently, he has returned to school to complete a degree in Registered Nursing. Future plans are for Raul are to eventually complete a degree as a Nurse Practitioner combining his therapy practice with his nursing skills.

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