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What Are Dual Diagnosis Services?

What Are Dual Diagnosis Services?

It is proven that treating mental health and substance misuse challenges is not as effective as dual diagnosis services. Learn more here.

What Are Dual Diagnosis Services?

Dual diagnosis services play a critical role in addressing the issues of mental health disorders and substance use disorder (SUD). 
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 9.5 million adults in the United States experienced both mental health and substance use disorders in 2019.1

Furthermore, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health had interesting findings. Only 12.2% of adults with co-occurring disorders received both mental health care and specialty substance use treatment in the past year.2

dual diagnosis services

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis services are a type of treatment approach designed for individuals who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. These two kinds of disorders often interact in complex ways. Effective treatment must address both disorders simultaneously.3

The term “dual diagnosis” comes from the understanding that an individual deals with two distinct but intertwined diagnoses. 

For example, depression and alcohol addiction, or anxiety and opioid dependence are common co-occurring disorders. Each disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of the other, making them more challenging to treat.

Key Elements of Dual Diagnoses Treatment

Dual diagnosis services integrate mental health and substance use treatment. Traditionally, these disorders were treated separately.
They were often treated by different facilities or by different professionals. However, research has shown that integrated treatment that addresses both disorders is more effective.

Cross-Trained Staff

To provide effective integrated treatment, dual diagnosis services often employ cross-trained staff. These professionals have training in both mental health care and substance use treatment. This allows them to understand the complex interactions between these disorders.

Individualized Care

Dual diagnosis services provide individualized care that considers each individual’s unique needs and experiences of each individual. This includes developing a treatment plan that addresses both mental health symptoms and substance use issues.

Long-Term Treatment Approach

Dual diagnosis often requires a long-term treatment approach. Both mental health and substance use disorders are chronic conditions that require ongoing management.

Peer Support

Dual diagnosis services often incorporate peer support. Individuals in treatment have the opportunity to interact with others who are dealing with similar challenges, which can provide a sense of hope and understanding.

Access to Community Resources

Dual diagnosis services also often include assistance in connecting individuals with community resources. 
This can include housing assistance, vocational training, and other supports that can assist in recovery and maintaining stability.

Common Mental Health Disorders That Co-occur With Substance Abuse

There are some mental health disorders that may co-occur with substance use. Common mental health disorders often seen in conjunction with substance use disorder include the following:

  • Depression: Substance use can be a form of self-medication for individuals with depression. Conversely, substance use can also lead to or worsen depressive symptoms.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Similar to depression, individuals with anxiety disorders might use substances to cope with their symptoms. Also, certain substances can cause or worsen anxiety.
  • Bipolar Disorder: Individuals with bipolar disorder may use substances during manic or depressive phases as a means of coping. Substance use can also trigger mood episodes or make them more severe.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Trauma can lead to both mental health disorders like PTSD and substance use problems. Substance use might be a way of coping with distressing trauma-related symptoms.
  • Schizophrenia: Co-occurring substance use disorders are common in people with schizophrenia. It’s believed that some individuals may use substances to manage or self-medicate symptoms.
  • Personality Disorders: People with personality disorders, particularly borderline personality disorder, often have co-occurring substance use disorders. This may be due to impulsivity, difficulty with emotional regulation, and other factors.

Why Is Integrated Treatment Important?

The symptoms of mental health and substance use disorders often interact in complex ways. For example, substance use can worsen mental health symptoms, and severe mental health symptoms can make it harder to quit using substances.

When left untreated, one condition can often exacerbate the other. For instance, a person with untreated bipolar disorder might use substances more heavily, and heavy substance use can, in turn, make the disorder more severe.

To effectively treat co-occurring disorders, professionals need to have a comprehensive understanding of both types of disorders. Dual diagnosis services provide this integrated understanding.

Simultaneous Treatment

Treating both conditions is usually more effective than treating them separately. Dual diagnosis services offer this integrated treatment. 
Research suggests that integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders leads to better outcomes, including reduced substance use, improved psychiatric symptoms, better overall functioning, and fewer hospitalizations.
Dual diagnosis services address all aspects of an individual’s well-being, not just their substance use or mental health symptoms. This holistic approach is critical to supporting recovery and long-term wellness.

How Dual Diagnosis Services Differ From Traditional Treatment Programs

Traditional substance use disorder treatment programs primarily focus on addressing the addiction component. On the other hand, dual diagnosis services integrate the treatment of both substance abuse and mental health disorders.

This difference in approach is a critical factor when treating individuals with co-occurring disorders. Here’s a breakdown of how dual diagnosis services are different:

Integrated Treatment

Traditional substance abuse treatment programs may not be equipped to address mental health disorders, which often co-occur with addiction. Dual diagnosis services treat both disorders simultaneously in a coordinated way.

Specialized Staff

Dual diagnosis programs employ professionals who are trained in both addiction treatment and mental health care. This is different from traditional programs, where staff may only be trained in addiction treatment.

Holistic Approach

While traditional programs focus primarily on addiction, dual diagnosis services take a more holistic approach. 
This means they address all aspects of an individual’s well-being, including mental and physical health, living situation, and social relationships.

Long-Term Perspective

Dual diagnosis services understand that both mental health and substance use disorders are chronic conditions. 

These conditions require ongoing management. They often offer longer-term treatment and support compared to traditional programs.

Individualized Treatment

Dual diagnosis services provide personalized treatment plans that consider each individual’s unique needs and experiences. This includes addressing the specific mental health disorder(s) that co-occur with substance use. 

Treatment Types and Opportunities

Dual diagnosis treatment services offer specialized approaches to effectively treat co-occurring disorders, including:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can effectively treat both mental health disorders and substance use disorders. It helps individuals understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This is a client-centered counseling style that enhances motivation to change through exploring and resolving ambivalence. It’s often used in dual diagnosis treatment to encourage engagement in treatment and recovery behaviors.
  • Medication Management: Many individuals with co-occurring disorders benefit from medication to manage symptoms of mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis services include medication management as part of integrated treatment.
  • Peer Support Groups: These groups provide individuals with a safe and supportive environment to share their experiences and learn from others dealing with similar challenges.
  • Family Therapy: Family can be an important source of support for individuals with co-occurring disorders. Family therapy can help family members better understand these disorders and learn how to provide effective support.
  • Case Management: Case management can help individuals navigate the healthcare system, connect with community resources, and coordinate various aspects of their care.
  • Trauma-Informed Care: Many individuals with co-occurring disorders have experienced trauma. Dual diagnosis services professionals incorporate trauma-informed care principles. This approach aims to create a safe, supportive treatment environment that minimizes the risk of re-traumatization.

Benefits of Dual Diagnosis Services vs. Separate Treatment

The treatment of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders can be complex. Traditional treatment models that address these disorders separately often fail to meet the needs of individuals with dual diagnoses. 
Treating both disorders at the same time in an integrated program reduces the risk of conflicting treatment plans and enhances coordination between professionals involved in the patient’s care.

Integrated Care

Individuals receiving integrated care often experience improved mental health outcomes, including reduced severity of psychiatric symptoms and better overall mental health. 

By treating both the substance abuse disorder and the mental health disorder simultaneously, dual diagnosis services can lower the risk of relapse. This is comparable to traditional models where the disorders are treated separately.4

Understanding Dual Diagnosis Services

Although dual diagnosis services might initially seem more expensive due to their comprehensive nature, they often prove cost-effective in the long run.

This works by reducing the need for hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and other high-cost services.
Dual diagnosis services help individuals understand the link between their mental health disorder and substance abuse. This increased awareness and understanding can support self-management strategies and long-term recovery.

Why Integrated Care is Important

Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to stay in treatment and engage actively when integrated with mental health and substance use services. 

Dual diagnosis treatment programs equip individuals with tools and strategies to manage symptoms of both disorders, leading to better coping mechanisms and overall mental resilience.5

Commonly Used Therapies in Dual Diagnosis Services

Several evidence-based therapies and interventions are commonly utilized in dual diagnosis services to address the complex interplay between mental health and substance use disorders. 
The most common therapy practices used in dual diagnosis services include the following:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a common therapy used in dual diagnosis treatment. It helps individuals recognize and change negative thought patterns that lead to harmful behaviors, such as substance use.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT is particularly useful for individuals with borderline personality disorder and substance use disorders. It teaches coping skills for managing emotions, tolerating distress, being mindful and present, and navigating interpersonal relationships effectively. 

Motivational Interviewing (MI)

MI is a counseling approach that helps individuals find the motivation to change problematic behaviors, including substance use. It’s particularly useful for people who are ambivalent about change or who have had difficulty sustaining recovery in the past.

Integrated Group Therapy (IGT)

IGT is a specific type of group therapy designed for people with bipolar disorder and substance use disorder. It addresses the overlap between these disorders and helps individuals develop strategies for managing both conditions at once.

Dual Recovery Therapy (DRT)

DRT involves individual therapy sessions that address both psychiatric illness and substance misuse. The therapist helps the patient to understand the relationship between the two and develop a recovery plan that addresses both.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

MAT involves using medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat substance use disorders. 

When integrated into a broader treatment regimen, it can also assist in managing co-occurring mental health disorders.
dual diagnosis services

Challenges Involved When Implementing Dual Diagnosis Services

Implementing dual diagnosis services does come with its own set of unique considerations and challenges. These services require integrated treatment of two complex conditions, which can present logistical, professional, and systemic challenges. 

Considerations for Care

Here are some specific considerations:

  • Staff training
  • Integration of services
  • Systemic barriers
  • Financing
  • Accessibility and outreach
  • Assessment and treatment planning
  • Family involvement
Despite these challenges, the implementation of dual diagnosis services is a vital step forward in treating individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, offering a more holistic and integrated approach to care.

How Can Rise Above Treatment Help?

At Rise Above Treatment, we provide integrated, comprehensive care for individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health conditions. 

We employ a combination of evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), or motivational interviewing (MI), depending on the client’s needs.

We also incorporate medication management and peer support. We know that every person is unique; thus, we use a whole-person approach, addressing both disorders simultaneously. If you or your loved one need dual diagnosis services, please do not hesitate to reach out today.

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