People who experience dysregulated emotions can often develop addictions as a way of coping with their emotional pain. Addictive behaviors can be a disorder in themselves, though commonly they develop alongside other emotional disorders. In either case DBT can be effective in targeting addictive behaviors that occur.
In applying the principle of Dialectical Abstinence, people with addictions learn to implement strategies to keep themselves away from triggers and from addictive behavior without falling due to all-or-nothing perceptions of abstinence. Clients sign an abstinence agreement that they perceive to be realistic. Along with this they are taught the necessary skills to be able to stick to their agreement, They then commit 100% to stick to the plan and not relapse. DBT acknowledges that failures are part of life, so when relapse does occur it is seen as a learning opportunity. The circumstances and triggers surrounding it are studied and reviewed so that the client is prepared to not fail again, and 100% commitment is re-established. The client does not start again from zero but rather continually moves toward their goal of eliminating the addictive behavior.
Through group and individual sessions clients also learn how behavioral principles affect their cycle of addictive behavior and how they can use such principles to help manage it. Finally, clients learn how the 4 DBT skills modules can be applied to addictive behavior and the emotional upheaval that surrounds it. Clients can learn new ways to think about and tolerate their emotional distress and addictive urges, life-enhancing ways of thinking and acting, and more effective ways to handle interpersonal triggers and relationships.