A mental health disorder or a substance abuse disorder usually does not exist in an isolated vacuum. This means that it is quite common for these disorders to co-exist, a term known as dual diagnosis. It is often difficult to differentiate which disorder initiated first and if there was a direct cause and effect however if an individual has both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder both disorders are treated simultaneously. Therefore, there are many dual diagnosis treatment options.

Dual diagnosis treatment options

A study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine revealed that the treatment approaches used for mental health disorders as a singular diagnosis are also useful for individuals who suffer from both a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder, or in other words, dual diagnosis. On that same note, the treatments used to help those individuals who are struggling from a substance abuse disorder are also useful for the treatment of substance abuse when there is a mental illness also present. So, what type of dual diagnosis treatment options work for individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and a substance abuse disorder? The answer depends on the individual and their specific needs. Dual diagnosis treatment, like any other treatment for mental health or addiction, should be focused on the individual and not the collection of symptoms or disorders at hand. Effective treatment programs can tailor a treatment plan for each individual’s needs. For example, what kind of substances does the individual abuse? Stimulants such as cocaine have a very different withdrawal profile compared to opioids, and therefore, the treatment plan could vary depending on the specific drug of abuse.

Additionally, certain mental health disorders have differing impacts on each individual. For example, the underlying triggers can range drastically between clients. For example, maybe one client has a history of trauma, which has a significant impact on their anxiety whereas another client has a strong family history of bipolar disorder and they have abused Xanax as a coping mechanism for their bipolar disorder. Regardless of the treatment approach, research shows that for individuals with dual diagnosis, the most successful recovery is achieved when their conditions are addressed concurrently.

Cognitive behavioral therapy as a dual diagnosis treatment option

Many individuals base their behaviors and their decisions to act in specific manners on their perception of the world around them. If an individual believes that they are not good enough, they may behave in a way that is unhealthy because they do not think their actions or thoughts matter. Cognitive behavioral therapy works to change these harmful thought patterns and replace them with healthy alternatives. If an individual can change their view on their self-worth, they can work on changing their behavior as it pertains to drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a proactive treatment where the client makes a list of goals and future accomplishments, and each session, steps are taken to ensure these long-term goals. Individuals must ask important questions about their disorder and how it affects their life. For example, if an individual is struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, they may ask themselves whether performing a ritual is lifesaving or simply a way to carry out an obsessive thought.

Other dual diagnosis treatment options

  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing
  • Family therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy