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Dual Diagnosis Program

According to the records of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) about 4 million people aged 18 and above are suffering from dual diagnosis and the number is, unfortunately, increasing every year. The silver lining to all these is that dual diagnosis treatment strategies at this day and age are more effective compared to a couple of decades ago.


Up until the early 1990s, the concept of a dual diagnosis rehab facility was still unknown. Patients who are suffering from substance abuse disorder while at the same time exhibiting symptoms of some form of mental illness are not given proper treatment. They are either solely treated for their addiction or their mental health issue but not both. Needless to say, such approach only addresses one-half of the problem, which means the patient is not given the help he really needed.


Fortunately, dual diagnosis treatment has improved greatly over the years together with how co-occurring disorder is viewed. It is important to note, however, that not all treatment plans can provide the patient with the best chance of recovery. There are certain elements that should be present in the dual diagnosis program that will increase the likelihood of success.


Below are some ways that will help increase the effectiveness of treatment for co-occurring disorders:

Treatment approaches should be integrated rather than sequential

Highly trained professionals who have vast experience in treating dual diagnosis know that the substance abuse disorder and mental health issue should be addressed together and not one after the other. Moreover, this integrated approach should only be carried out by the same treatment team in the same facility so that the rehab plan will be seamless and completely addresses the recovery needs of the patient.

Treatment should include holistic approaches

An effective treatment program takes into account every aspect of the individual – physical, emotional, intellectual, and social because all these aspects should be complementing and working together for the patient to achieve recovery. Dual diagnosis treatment should ensure that the entire being of the patient had been considered and given proper attention. If every part of the person is working well then, the entire being will improve as well. Use of holistic techniques will also break down walls of hostility and make the patient more cooperative and responsive to treatment.

Treatment should be carried out by professionals who apply a supportive approach to therapy

It is important to keep in mind that while the treatment program and plan is critical the person who will carry it out is equally important. The counselors and other members of the treatment team should not use a confronting approach to the patient but rather a supportive one. The patient is already suffering from mental health concerns as it is, yelling, negative words, and tough statements may cause the patient to break instead of getting better. The treatment professionals should build the patient’s self-esteem and self-concept during the course of the treatment.

Treatment should include the active participation of family members and significant others

Mental health concerns and substance abuse disorder are often linked with issues related to family and significant others. A person suffering from dual diagnosis often has dysfunctional relationships with the people around him. Involving the family and loved ones in counseling, group therapy, and other activities will ensure better treatment outcomes for the patient. Moreover, sorting out relationship issues will help the patient to better cope with challenges, thereby achieving long-term recovery.

The pace of treatment should take into account the comfort level of the patient

Effective dual diagnosis recovery plans are always tailor-fitted to the individual recovery needs of the patient. It should also take into consideration the pace of the individual. While there are estimated time periods for each treatment phase, the counselor should always ensure that the patient feels comfortable rather than overwhelmed.

Recovering from substance abuse disorder is already challenging enough, how much more if the patient is suffering from a mental illness at the same time. If you have been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder or have a loved one who is, it is best if you check the dual diagnosis treatment facility you have been eyeing considers the elements mentioned above so that you have a better chance of getting your life back on track.

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