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Published on September 10, 2015

Helping those who have both mental health and substance abuse issues

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Imagine you have your hands full managing either your addictive disorder or a mental health disorder … Difficult? Yes. Challenging? Without a doubt.

Now imagine you’re trying to deal with having both kinds of disorders at the same time. That takes the complexity and challenges to a whole other level.

This is not a rare thing. It’s fair to say most people with a substance use disorder also have a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental health disorder. The vice versa also is true. As many as 10 million people in the U.S. meet the criteria for at least one mental health disorder as well as a substance use disorder, otherwise known as co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

To help, what is needed are services specifically targeted to impact co-occurring disorders and the use of evidence-based approaches, as well as the ongoing support from the skilled behavioral health professionals at Palos Community Hospital.

“It’s easy to understand that people suffering from both a substance use disorder as well as one or more mental health conditions are among the most complex and challenging patients with whom to achieve good and enduring clinical outcomes,” explains John Brogan, LCSW, Clinical Supervisor of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at Palos Community Hospital. “You can understand having more than one disorder can make it harder to remain sober or the addictive disorder may affect the patient’s mood, but they shouldn’t despair, though. People with dual or co-occurring disorders can and do succeed with the right kind of treatment and support.”

The outpatient programs at Palos provide integrated, evidence-based treatment for people with concurrent substance use and mental health disorders. “We treat both conditions simultaneously by the same staff at the same location and treatment is individually tailored to best serve each patient,” says program therapist Diane Bennett, LCSW.

Palos uses a wide-ranging and intensive set of coordinated evidence-based treatments in its structured outpatient programs, including the following:

  • Innovative approaches to help the patient discover and clarify their own good reasons to make the needed changes; treatment success depends upon this.
  • Groups designed to help patients learn how to quickly achieve abstinence and then to maintain their abstinence.
  • Individual and family therapy sessions.
  • Medication-assisted treatments that assist the patient in maintaining stability with regard to both the mental health and substance abuse disorders.
  • Family Education Group (for patients and family members) as they support the patient’s recovery efforts.

“Family involvement is vital and that happens in two ways: sessions with the patient’s own family and powerful multiple family experiences called Family Group Education,” John says. Each Saturday, relatives or significant others, with permission from the patient, attend Family Group Education sessions with the patient. The objectives of these groups include:

  • Information about co-occurring disorders
  • Decreased stress in the family
  • Help with problem-solving
  • Collaboration with the treatment team
  • Increased social support

“Treatment can work,” Diane emphasizes. “Ultimately our patients work to take charge of their lives. We’re here to offer them advice, skills and support to help them generate the life they want to have.”