Integrated Treatment Programs

Recent studies of rehabilitation programs for people with co-occurring disorders have shown that integrated treatment is the most effective approach. Combining strategies from psychiatry and addiction treatment can lower the relapse rate among rehab graduates, reduce the number of suicide attempts, and foster long-term abstinence, according to research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Treating addictive disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time is important for several reasons:

  • Integrated recovery plans are designed to overcome the negative side effects of mental health disorders, such as a reduced attention span, low motivation, and fear of socializing with others.
  • Medication therapy is more effective when your pharmacological plan addresses your mental health disorder and your substance abuse disorder.
  • In the treatment of co-occurring disorders, the traditional hesitations about prescribing psychotherapeutic medications are no longer an issue.
  • Group therapy for people with co-occurring disorders offers a stronger support network for individuals living with mental illness and overcoming addiction.
  • Treating addiction and a mental health condition at the same time helps rehab clients address their unique relapse triggers, such as depression, mood swings, or panic attacks.

In facilities that emphasize treatment for co-occurring disorders, staff members have specialized training and qualifications in dual diagnosis treatment. These specialists understand that clients with co-occurring disorders face certain challenges because of their mental illness.

Approaches to Treatment

Since the 1990s, the field of co-occurring disorders treatment has continued to grow. In 2001, Dr. Kenneth Minkoff, a pioneer in the field of dual diagnosis treatment, published an article in Psychiatric Services outlining the best standards of care, which include the following:

  • Welcoming clients with co-occurring disorders into substance abuse treatment instead of excluding them because of a psychiatric condition.
  • Giving the addictive and co-occurring psychiatric disorders the same level of attention and care during the rehabilitation process.
  • Addressing mental illness and substance use disorder as chronic, relapsing conditions requiring long-term support.
  • Ensuring that care is provided by a treatment team that is trained in addressing co-occurring disorders.
  • Assessing each client for mental health disorders as early in the rehabilitation process as possible so treatment can begin promptly.
  • Treating all clients with dignity and respect, even if they are in a mental health crisis or acutely intoxicated.

When treatment plans for co-occurring disorders and addiction are combined, therapy sessions and group meetings can be structured to reflect the needs of those with mental illnesses. Symptoms like social anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, or compulsive behavior don’t have to become an obstacle to care if these programs are tailored to the needs of clients with co-occurring disorders.