Individuals who have both a mental illness and an addiction to drugs or alcohol present a challenge for medical professionals. Treatment is complicated by the overlapping symptoms of the addiction and the mental illness. Complete recovery takes time and great care due to the delicate nature of the individual. Because these patients have a mental illness, getting them to comply with the rules and regulations of a conventional drug rehab program can be difficult. It may be hard to persuade patients with co-occurring disorders to take their medications, attend counseling or participate in other activities associated with success in a rehab program.
The most successful approaches for Dual Diagnosis patients are integrated programs that treat all aspects of the illnesses in a single location.
Mental health professionals and addiction rehab counselors work together in these programs to provide well-rounded care that encompasses everything involved in the diagnosis.
There is a lot to do (take meds regularly, avoid triggers of addiction) and even more to rebuild (personal relationship, careers, finances) but the aftercare program lets the individual know that they are not alone during this part of their journey, and provides much needed structure.
Clinicians who specialize in addiction recovery now recognize the need for compassionate, supportive care in the treatment of Dual Diagnosis patients. Therapy sessions for these patients must encourage the patient to find the motivation to heal. This process begins by building a trusting relationship between the therapist and the patient. Once trust has been established, the therapeutic process involves helping the patient learn new coping skills, build self-confidence and manage the symptoms of mental illness.
Residential treatment is often recommended for Dual Diagnosis patients, who can benefit from living in a supervised setting. While outpatient care may be appropriate for clients who are relatively stable, many patients with co-occurring disorders need intensive rehab services and clinical monitoring while they go through recovery.
Treatment should last long enough to reinforce the skills and strategies acquired during the rehabilitation process; however, many patients are discharged before they can reap the full benefits of their recovery program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, recommends that clinically supervised treatment for opiate addiction last at least 12 months yet most patients leave or are discharged before the year is over. Developing an individualized treatment plan that addresses the patient’s needs is one of the most critical steps in the recovery process. After the initial rehabilitation period, many Dual Diagnosis patients can benefit from transitional housing at a sober living facility or residential community where they can practice their new skills in a safe environment.
Drug or alcohol rehabilitation for Dual Diagnosis patients should be integrated with mental health care if the patient is to achieve a complete recovery, according to Mental Health Services Research. In the early stages of treatment, patients who have been using drugs or alcohol heavily may need to go through detoxification, nutritional supplementation and fluid replacement as part of the stabilization process. Patients with co-occurring psychiatric disorders may experience anxiety, agitation, severe depression or flashbacks as the toxic substances leave their system.
One of the primary goals of detox is to prepare the patient for the next stage of rehab. Rehabilitation is where the real work of recovery begins, as patients learn how to create a life that’s free from drugs and alcohol. Individual counseling sessions, group therapy, medication and family counseling are the cornerstones of an addiction treatment program. Psychotherapy for Dual Diagnosis patients addresses the sources of addiction as well as strategies for managing cravings and triggers. Participation in support groups and 12-step programs helps to build coping skills and generate hope for the future.