Coping Skills: DBT

Coping Skills: DBT

People with solid recovery find that having a toolbox filled with effective coping skills is an important resource. These non-chemical coping skills replace the old, destructive habits of using, numbing, and avoiding. This program specifically addresses Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).


The definition of Cope:

To deal effectively with something difficult.

When starting down the path to recovery, coping with some of the realities of your life can be challenging. Many of us experienced life by numbing ourselves, so when we remove the harmful substance from our life, it can be hard to deal with certain situations.

Developing strong coping skills can help you get through the challenges. This program will give you an overview of one type of coping skill.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Merriam-Webster's definition of dialectic:

A method of examining and discussing opposing ideas in order to find the truth.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a set of tools designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful by looking at the tension between two things that are true at the same time. Addiction is a perfect example of a dialectic: I love how it makes me feel AND I hate what it's done to my life.

DBT tools include being able to stay present with the two opposing ideas, use coping skills to deal with the stress of that tension, and regulate emotions. Here are some ways to help you do that.

Use meditation/breathing techniques to help you stay present. (Refer back to the Mindfulness section of coping skills).

Develop the ability to tolerate two opposing ideas at the same time (the “dialectic”). This is one major coping skill in DBT; it is the practice of being able to avoid thinking in all-or-none/black-or-white terms. As you get more skilled you can avoid extremes in your thinking. It’s about practicing acceptance - to “walk the middle path.” Some examples: “I want to use my drug AND it will make me miserable” or “I love my spouse AND I’m really angry with her.”

Ride the wave. DBT encourages you to ride the wave of emotions and impulses by calming yourself using the techniques mentioned above so that you don’t act on impulse. When we ride the wave, we recognize that we may be in the middle of an intense emotion AND we don’t have to act out on these emotions at that moment.

Both Sides At Once

Write an example of a dialectic in your life right now where two opposites are true at the same time. Discuss this with someone in your support system. Which DBT skills might help you with this?


In order to be successful in your recovery from addiction and build a life of promise, you need to acquire and grow strong coping skills. When you expand your ability to deal with tough situations, you'll find that you can make it through anything without relapsing.

Building coping skills takes practice, so be patient with yourself. Remember to set attainable goals, so when choosing skills to work on, make a list of steps to achieve it, and work your way through that list a step at a time.

Your To Do List

  • Practice coping using dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)

Keep learning about coping skills and read Coping Skills: Exercise and Nutrition.

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