We live in a time when health workers are making attempts to treat their patients in a more holistic manner. More so than ever before, the medical field realizes the value of determining, understanding, and attacking the underlying cause of a concern rather than merely eradicating its symptoms.
This relatively new and advancing philosophy extends into the realm of substance abuse. Specifically, the simultaneous treatment of a mental health disorder and addiction is known as dual diagnosis, and it can hold many advantages over traditional methods.
Treatment has moved beyond the mere use of medication. It seeks to remove negative stimuli from patient lives and to provide a positive psychological and external foundation upon which to build.
At first blush, the existence of a mental health disorder might seem to complicate the rehabilitation process, as it could exacerbate emotional distress and cause a patient to feel a greater dependence on alcohol or drugs. However, mitigating the effects of mental illness can in turn ease the psychological grip of the addiction. And it’s a fortunate two-way street. Eliminating dependence on drugs serves to clear the head and allow patients to battle their mental disorder in a more streamlined fashion.
A Battle on Multiple Fronts
Centers that provide dual diagnosis treatment are better equipped to fight the battle on the physical, mental, and psychological fronts. Health workers are trained in a manner so that they can better understand the symptoms of both the mental disorders and the addiction, which are unfortunately often very similar, and thus provide a more proper platform for addressing the issues at hand.
Additionally, health workers who have a more expansive role can consider all aspects of the situation, beyond the treatment of symptoms. They’re able to create a wellness plan that takes great care to consider the dual nature of the circumstances. For instance, when prescribing medication for a mental disorder, they need to consider possible negative effects of a chosen medication on the addiction-recovery process. The duality involved can require a tightrope-walking ability that only the specially trained possess.
It is critically important to understand that without treating the mental health disorder, substance abuse treatment indeed might be next to impossible. The continued strain placed on an individual by depression and anxiety works in opposition to the treatment center’s efforts.
Dual treatment offers other options that attack the addiction and the mental health disorder simultaneously. Full-time monitoring and sober-living houses can provide the support that is so necessary in the early stages of recovery. They reduce or eliminate exposure to triggering situations – as well as to the drugs themselves – and they also serve as an environment where patients feel less vulnerable. This allows recovering addicts to more easily open themselves up to further treatment options.
Over time, as the intensity of the addiction lessens, the treatments might also be relaxed, offering patients the opportunity to see the results of their progress and the increased autonomy that has been granted to them due to their successful steps toward recovery.
Healing the Human Inside
Beyond the medical components involved, there is of course also a vital humanistic element that needs to be considered. Healing the mind can go a long way toward helping the patient to better function without their perceived need for the crutch that drugs or alcohol provide. By reducing anxiety and stress, patients can seek more stability in their lives and find relief through more fulfilling, less damaging means.
The diagnosis of mental illness can be a psychological aid in that it provides validation for one’s uncharacteristic behavior. By providing a patient with self-confidence and a more positive outlook, health workers can lessen a patient’s desire to find external relief.
Patients may find additional affirmation through encounters with others who are further along in the treatment process. They are able to see that theirs is a shared and beatable affliction. Fellow patients and recovering addicts are also able to provide emotional support when setbacks occur. Encounters with others who have suffered from mental disorders help to reinforce the fact that it’s not a personal fault but a chronic illness with which they are dealing.
The Self, Family, and Friends
Counseling is still another positive service provided at dual diagnosis treatment centers. Counseling can help patients understand that they are individuals who have specific needs and that there are reasons for their behavior. It’s helpful during times of crisis to feel connection to those around us and to be treated as more than a number or a case study.
Of course, addiction affects not only the patient. Group therapy at a dual diagnosis treatment center affords those close to the recovering individual a better glimpse into the reasons behind their addiction. An environment without distraction provides for better focus, and health workers can work to untangle relational knots that might have become deep-seated by years of dependency and the complex circumstances that can arise out of it.
Changing Gears and Moving Forward
The patient might also work towards creating both long-term and short-term plans that can help them find positivity in their everyday lives. Recreational and avocational endeavors can help to create social networks that provide both support and a feeling of self-worth.
Musical and artistic endeavors offer a creative outlet that can help restore belief in oneself and provide a new focus in a previously cluttered life. Volunteer work, community interaction, and other forms of altruistic service can also serve to restore dignity and pride that might have eroded.
Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is a complex effort best served by a multi tiered plan. Dual treatment centers are equipped to take the full spectrum of patients’ lives into consideration when developing steps to overcome the addiction and then to move forward. They recognize that addressing mental illness is often the first and most critical step toward regaining control of one’s life and working toward self-improvement.