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Here’s Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Almost Always A Better Option

Here's Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Almost Always A Better Option

Sometimes the worst happens. You never thought it would be you, but here you are. You feel defeated, lonely, and *gasp* addicted to something you never thought was possible.

Maybe you felt you could never be addicted to alcohol or drugs. You tried to be careful. It ran rampant in your family and you knew better.

You berate yourself. You should have handled your emotions better. You should have picked yourself up and dusted yourself off. You heard people say, “Put your grown-up pants on and get it together.”

Ultimately, your depression and anxiety disorder got the best of you. You found a substance to help you calm down. But now you can’t stop.

Someone mentioned dual diagnosis treatment as an option. You remembered those words and wondered about this type of treatment. What exactly is dual diagnosis treatment?

You’ve heard about dual diagnosis treatment centers. Keep reading to find out more information on dual diagnosis treatment and why these are the best options for those seeking help with a substance abuse problem.

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

First, it is important to understand what dual diagnosis treatment does. Then you will see why it’s the best choice.

Previously, substance abuse and mental health were two separate disciplines. These two areas of study were specialized. Either you were mentally ill or you were addicted. However, in recent years it has been found that dual diagnosis treatment is more effective for those seeking substance abuse help.

Co-occurring disorders are another common way to describe those with dual diagnosis disorders. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a recent survey found that nearly 8 million people in the United States experienced both a mental illness diagnosis and an addiction.

This whopping number shows the importance of dual diagnosis treatment centers. At a dual diagnosis treatment center, patients will experience treatment in both areas of need. Professionals are trained and specialize in both substance abuse issues and mental health problems.

What are mental health disorders?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a mental health disorder is considered “a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder that causes serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

What is a substance abuse disorder?

Similarly, SAMHSA defines a substance abuse disorder as one that occurs “when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.”

Great Reasons to Seek Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Treating both of these challenges simultaneously is important for several reasons. First, it helps to truly individualize a person’s treatment. Treatment plans can be made based on the specific nature of a person’s illness instead of treating a person in a general way for substance abuse addiction.

Second, a person who suffers from addiction or chronic substance abuse more than likely suffers from some type of mental health issue. The mental illness could be simply depression or anxiety or could be as severe as schizophrenia, PTSD, or bipolar disorder.

Another reason that dual diagnosis treatment is a better choice is that there are a wider variety of therapeutic options available to patients for treatment.

What are mental health disorders

One size does not fit all when it comes to substance abuse treatment. 

Some individuals may be more drawn to traditional one-on-one psychotherapy, whereas another person may benefit from more creative modalities like art expression therapy or music or movement therapy.

Some dual diagnosis treatment programs provide a wide variety of groups, treatment types, and activities. Some patients respond well to physical activity and outdoor/nature programs. Others may love yoga and meditation.

The more holistic the approach, the better the treatment can work. This is because there are various combinations of treatment that work uniquely for each individual person. Dual diagnosis programs typically take the time to get to know the individual fully, along with his or her family.

Each person and family has individual circumstances and needs that have to be addressed. Involving the family is something that dual diagnosis programs incorporate into treatment.

Another important thing to remember is that sometimes a person may not have already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder at the time they enter treatment for substance abuse.

In cases like this, it can only benefit the person to receive dual diagnosis treatment. This can be the lifesaving measure needed to teach someone about a new mental illness diagnosis. It can help a person make sense of their struggles and ensure that he or she is properly diagnosed.

Types of Treatment Used in Dual Diagnosis Programs

Treatment plans are as individual as the people who benefit from them. That’s why it’s so helpful to have different types of therapeutic treatment options for those with mental health issues and substance abuse issues.

There is a part of the treatment that involves education, too. This is called psychoeducation. Often psychoeducation occurs in groups and works to teach patients about their illnesses along with helpful coping skills.

So when a person who is experiencing symptoms of more than one illness, it is important to educate him or her about each of the illnesses.

This falls under the “knowledge is power” philosophy. And ultimately these types of dual diagnosis treatment centers are better equipped to help patients become self-sufficient and knowledgeable.

In addition to special programs that are based on the arts, such as art therapy or music and movement techniques for treatment, there are many types of therapeutic treatments.

These treatments range from individual therapy to group therapy. There are also specialized treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) which help patients restructure their thought patterns. Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another specialized treatment that involves components of cognitive behavioral therapy and combines it with mindfulness and interpersonal relationship work.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment is More Comprehensive

In addition to the psychological aspects of treatment, dual diagnosis programs also focus on substance abuse treatment. These can include 12-step groups, workshops focusing on 12-step work, relapse prevention, and learning about the disease of addiction.

It’s important to note that dual diagnosis treatment is more comprehensive, too. Dual diagnosis treatment can include everything from medically detoxing an individual to inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.

Aftercare is also something addressed in dual diagnosis treatment programs. Besides looking at all of a patient’s potential needs for treatment, aftercare can help transition a person back into everyday life with newly learned skills.

These types of programs recognize that getting physically clean is only a small part of treating addiction and mental illness. It includes addressing the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of a person.

Don’t Make This False (and Dangerous) Assumption

Often people believe if they can fix the mental illness, they will help the substance abuse or vice versa. They get stuck on the “which came first…the chicken or the egg?” debate.  Honestly, it does not matter which came first: substance abuse or mental illness. The important thing is to treat them both, holisticallly.

Mental illness nearly always is related to treating substance abuse. Mental illness can begin early in life in a person or be something that is developed after a significant life trauma or event.

It is better to have more options available for patients during treatment rather than not have enough. Patients who do not receive all the potential treatment they need, may end up in treatment again…or worse.

There are more reasons than not, that you will benefit from a dual diagnosis program. It’s important to educate yourself about the benefits of getting help. Even more important, is to challenge the assumption that you need to learn which came first in order to treat it.

Dive into Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Maybe you’re the one struggling with a mental health and substance abuse problem. It’s possible that you can’t stop drinking and have no idea why. Or maybe you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and it’s causing you to self-medicate.

The great news is that dual diagnosis treatment can’t hurt! This type of treatment can help all types of people from all walks of life. The holistic nature of dual diagnosis treatment makes it a win-win for anyone seeking recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse disorder, full-blown addiction, or think you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, then look no further.

Contact us today to find out more about dual diagnosis treatment options!

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD 

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