Futures Recovery Healthcare

DBT Decoded: Build Mastery


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The myth about DBT is that it’s complicated. The reality is that the word “dialectical” sounds complicated, but it really just means that there are oppositional forces at play. In the realm of psychology, it basically means that we have opposite sides of the brain delivering thoughts – one side delivers emotional thoughts and the other side sends us reasonable thoughts. The trick is to honor both sides and find balance, as opposed to feeling conflicted between the two, or consistently leaning to the side that comes easier to our habitual way of thinking.

Building mastery is about the empowerment that comes from achievement, and that in order to achieve something that we deem worthwhile, we need to set a goal and work toward mastering the skills needed to achieve it. The goal could be lofty, and even unattainable, but the act of improving our skills and getting closer to achieving a goal is, in itself, an empowering achievement. For example, think about mastering the guitar. If you play regularly, learn new techniques, and improve your chops, you’re mastering the instrument. If your goal is to become the world’s greatest guitar player, it may be unachievable only because it’s subjective – and even if others consider you to be best, you still may not. The point is that it’s not as much about achieving an ultimate goal as it is about achieving smaller, achievable goals – such as practicing five hours per week or learning a new song.

Building mastery is about committing to something and seeing it through. For the individual in recovery, it may mean reigniting a passion to do something that was abandoned when substance abuse took over. Getting back to a creative endeavor, such as painting, cooking, or writing can be therapeutic and fuel self-esteem. It also could be about trying something new. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, try yoga, or go hiking, just finding the courage to begin something new is a form of mastery. If you’ve contemplated doing it and never did, then the act of doing it once, for any length of time is an accomplishment.

What does mastery have to do with dialectical thinking? Consider which part of your brain is interested in trying something new or getting back to something you’ve abandoned earlier. If your passion to do something that excites you is interfered with by thoughts of how hard it will be, or the fact that you quit before and you’ll just quit again, then your reasonable mind may be dominating over your emotional mind. Conversely, if you know for certain that committing to a healthy activity is the right thing to do, but you’re concerned about the sadness you’ll experience if you fail, then your emotional mind is putting the kibosh on it!

What we must keep in mind is the fact that achievement breeds confidence, and confidence fuels achievement. Once we’ve experienced losing control of our lives due to substance abuse, the road to recovery is filled with self-doubt. The antidote to self-doubt is accomplishment, and mastering even small challenges creates positive momentum. Trying something new or retrying something at which we’ve failed takes courage. Find the courage, do it, and work toward your goal. You will not regret it!

The compassionate and highly trained, Futures Recovery Healthcare team strives to provide education, support, and behavioral therapies in conjunction with medications at the proper times in order to promote a successful recovery from a substance abuse disorder. Call today to learn about our specialized and effective treatment programs.


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(866) 351-7588
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