What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT?

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a very important component for people who are in recovery and trying to get sober. It has been shown to help in the recovery process. What does that mean for you? It means this tool can help you get sober and experience a more fulfilling recovery.

This process allows people to unpack what’s going on cognitively (thinking) and emotionally (feeling). We all know that when we come to treatment, its often a very hard and confusing process to figure out what’s wrong and why we do what we do. By using DBT skills, you will start the process of finding out how thoughts and feelings affect your behaviors and allow you to make better choices in how you interact with your world.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy consists of four main groups:

Each part of the process is broken down into separate modules. We will spend time individually and in group sessions with you to make sure that you understand the salient features of each component and allow you to practice the application of these components in real-world scenarios.

Our four-week program allows every client to go into a detailed study on how to employ and practice these four principles. The tools that you will learn while at LifeSync Malibu Healing Center, will allow you space and time to heal so you can stay sober.


Today everybody is talking about mindfulness. It is very popular and a lot of people use this practice as a part of their personal meditation. In treatment, our clients’ behavior is often very instinctual: “I am going to use a substance” or, “I am going to get this” or, “I am doing that”. Many of our clients are not aware of what is driving their behavior from a physical, emotional, or mental standpoint. Moreover, they are frequently surprised to find out why they are acting or behaving in certain ways.

When we teach mindfulness at LifeSync Malibu, we utilize these techniques to help you slow down and allow you the space to become aware of what is going on inside your mind. This will give you space to make a decision about what kind of reaction or action you want to express in any given situation. For example, you get into an argument with a spouse or family member. Your feelings are hurt. They become angry. Then before you know it, you become fixated on drinking or using drugs. In many cases, the awareness of the emotional milieu is completely hidden, and you simply remember having a bad interaction with a close personal relationship and immediately wanting to use. Moreover, the cause and effect relationship to these two events is often not perceived.

Create space in your mind to heal

In situations such as these, we will work closely with you and allow you to unpack what just happened. In this example, there was a bad interaction with a close personal relationship. Other situations will elicit other responses. Feelings of anger, fear, sadness, shame, guilt and emotional pain are all very common. None of these emotions are very comfortable and often lead to relapse.

In our program, we allow each client to experience the space between the interaction and the emotion. This allows you to disarticulate the need to use substances to circumvent or avoid painful or distressing emotions or thoughts. It is the beginning of empowerment. Our clients feel empowered to make a change and to not have to stick with the same old routine of trigger and relapse, trigger and relapse, trigger and relapse. Instead, our clients are breaking the cycle of addiction one thought at a time and one moment at a time!

Emotion Regulation

This is the second component of dialectical behavioral therapy that we employ at LifeSync Malibu Healing Center. Emotion regulation is simply what it states it is: learning how to regulate emotions. Life unfortunately does not come with an instruction book, but if it did, having a regulator on the emotion button would be top of my list for helping people get through life. It is pretty clear that many people relapse over uncontrollable or severe emotions.

We will help you start the journey of championing your emotional life. This module is designed to help you regulate emotions and to stop out-of-control behaviors. Have you ever yelled at someone who just said hello? Or had a similar out of proportion emotional response to a social interaction? We all have. Whether you have 3 days, 30 days, 3 years, or 30 years sober, emotion regulation is a critical and important component of your recovery and can help you in your daily walk through life. Instead of being at the mercy of your emotions, championing your emotions will lead to better sobriety and happier living.

Distress Tolerance

This is the third component of dialectical behavioral therapy. Distress tolerance is very, very helpful in addressing crises. Whether this is an emotional crisis, physical crisis, or some other crisis, distress tolerance is a way to safely navigate through a traumatic or disturbing event and move forward in a healthy and sane way. In essence, this technique will allow you to tolerate emotional distress during the healing process. Coupled with other components of the dialectic behavioral therapeutic module, you will get relief while going through tough times.

Interpersonal Skills

The fourth and final component of the dialectical behavioral therapy program at LifeSync Malibu Healing Center is one of the most critical components: interpersonal skills. Relationships abound everywhere, and they are an integral part of society and our recovery. However, despite them being such a big part of life, many relationships are far from satisfactory. Terms to describe these relationships are, "dysfunctional relationships", "unhealthy relationships", "unfulfilling relationships", "unsatisfactory relationships", "bad relationships", you could add to the list extensively. We are a people who have difficulty relating to one another.

Despite the best vocabulary and understanding of the human language, people have problems getting along with one another. The Interpersonal Skills model teaches practical coping skills that allow people to form rich and meaningful relationships with others in the recovery. It also works in releasing tension and removing triggers for potential relapses.

In short, LifeSync Malibu Healing Center utilizes dialectical behavioral therapy in order to help our clients stay sober and develop high-quality recovery. By using these techniques, we have found that many of our clients feel much more comfortable in social settings and are much more stable overall. It is an effective and meaningful tool in the recovery process.