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Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

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What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)?

American psychologist Dr. Marsha Linehan developed Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in the 1970’s. As the first form of psychotherapy to formally incorporate mindfulness and acceptance, DBT has proven to be a powerful tool in the treatment of dual diagnosis clients that suffer from a combination of chronic addiction and mental health disorder.
One of DBT’s primary functions is to help the subject develop a foundation for emotional regulation. This skill set allows for individuals with a substance use disorder to better manage their emotions, thus reducing the propensity for relapse and improving quality of life. DBT theory claims people who are struggling with mental health or substance use disorder suffer from persistent forms of emotional dysregulation. This dysregulation drives their response in stressful situations without sufficient control over how they react emotionally.
DBT takes an interventionist approach by looking at what drives people toward substance use and how these substances are reintroduced as coping mechanisms. As a chronic relapse facility specializing in the treatment of co-occurring disorders, Burning Tree Ranch prioritizes the incorporation of evidence-based practices such as DBT as a first line of defense against relapse.
Meghan Bohlman, Clinical Director

“In our program, we focus on what clients do rather than what they say because behaviors tell us what they believe is important.”

Meghan Bohlman, LPC, LCDC, EMDR-Trained, Clinical Director

Why is DBT Different at Burning Tree Ranch?

Burning Tree Ranch treats persons who require a combination of addiction and mental health treatment.
People who struggle with addiction and emotional dysfunction report higher sensitivity and more immediate reactions to emotional situations. Their reactions are more extreme, making it more difficult for them to process events cognitively. Our clients demonstrate that their emotional reactions not only last longer but affect them in ways that cause considerable distress. Family members often note that their loved ones have had difficulty regulating their emotions since they were adolescents. As addiction develops and then progresses, the loved one often experiences greater and more serious forms of emotional dysregulation. This leads to repeated, more advanced stages of relapse.
At Burning Tree Ranch, our treatment team has the time to learn more about how these different forms of emotional dysregulation affect our clients in routine, daily settings. As a long-term, progress-based treatment program, we get to observe our client’s authentic emotional reactions in real-time. This allows the Burning Tree treatment team the opportunity to introduce our clients to new therapeutic interventions over a continuum of care that measures vast levels of improvement.

Benefits of DBT

DBT treatment helps our clients develop new skill sets relative to behavioral change and acceptance. We break these down into four modules: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Mindfulness – This is the first stage of becoming aware. We help our clients grow more attentive to their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This is the foundation upon which further skills are applied.
Distress Tolerance – Many of our clients demonstrate a low tolerance for stress. This module introduces distress tolerance skills that help our clients better manage their emotional reactions to stress, thus reducing crisis.
Emotional Regulation – Emotions motivate our behaviors. We help our clients accurately and consistently identify their emotions. Upon this foundation, we incorporate new skills that promote a more balanced and productive response to feelings.
Interpersonal Effectiveness – Put simply, this module addresses social skills and relationships. We help our clients develop the necessary skills to effectively get their objectives, goals, and needs met without disrupting relationships.
Fundamentally, our clients want to enjoy a life of sobriety. The foundation they build through DBT skills helps them to realize that, to achieve their objectives successfully, they will need to adopt new skills. In short, they will need to change. This awakening to self-awareness heralds a new beginning for many of our clients. At Burning Tree Ranch, we introduce dialectical behavioral therapy skills in both individual and group sessions.
Some of the DBT skills we include are:
  • Balancing change and acceptance
  • Tolerating distress without the need to escape it
  • Regulating emotions in a healthy way, rather than using substances to avoid them
  • Identifying how to respond to life events instead of using substances as a coping mechanism
  • Learning from mistakes, rather than self-medicating with substances to avoid discomfort
DBT helps our clients deal with situations that they are going to be confronted with in everyday life. We assist our clients in achieving healthier emotional reactions to life and teach them new ways to stabilize their emotional states instead of relying on old behavior patterns.
At Burning Tree Ranch, we invite our clients to observe their emotional reactions as they happen. We then help them to look at these feelings differently so they can learn to not act out on them ineffectively at their onset. This is the beginning of their experience with awareness and the first step towards improved emotional regulation.

Sophisticated Treatment for Chronic Relapse

Burning Tree Ranch is a highly sophisticated long-term residential treatment and aftercare program designed exclusively for the chronic relapser. Operating outside the limitations of a traditional 30, 60 or 90-day format, Burning Tree adheres to progress-based metrics that inform the clinical treatment team of the unique mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of each client, resulting in dynamic breakthroughs for those formerly unable to achieve meaningful, long-term recovery.
As of today, we are the only treatment center in the United States that combines time-intensive residential treatment with a therapeutically coordinated aftercare program focused singularly on the treatment of chronic relapsers.

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LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

"who is a burning tree client?"

Beth Legacki, Burning Tree Ranch Alumni