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What Type of Help Might a Person with a Co-Occurring Disorder Need?


The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that people with substance use disorders are at higher risk for developing one or more mental health disorders. 

This is why many people who struggle with substance abuse also experience mental health disorders. Integrated treatment approaches are important for addressing both substance use and mental health conditions, as treating both is essential for effective recovery and long-term sobriety.

What is an example of a co-occurring disorder?

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the simultaneous presence of an alcohol or drug addiction and one or more mental health issues. 

Some common co-occurring mental disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety and mood disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Personality and conduct disorders

What are some interventions for individuals with co-occurring psychiatric disorders?

Interventions for individuals with co-occurring psychiatric disorders, particularly those suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, typically involve integrated therapeutic approaches that treat all conditions at the same time. These interventions aim to address the dual nature of substance use and mental illness:

Integrated Assessment

Conducting a thorough assessment to identify and diagnose both the addiction and the co-occurring psychiatric disorder(s). This develops a comprehensive treatment program tailored to the individual’s specific needs.

Medication Management

Prescribing medications, when necessary, to manage psychiatric symptoms.


Providing various forms of psychotherapy that are adapted or specifically designed for individuals with co-occurring psychiatric disorders. 

Dual Diagnosis Support Groups

Encouraging participation in support groups or group therapy sessions that specifically address co-occurring disorders. 

How are individuals with co-occurring disorders treated?

People who receive a dual diagnosis, such as mental health problems combined with drug and alcohol addictions, can be treated with the same interventions for co-occurring psychiatric disorders.

Here are some additional approaches: 

  • Educating individuals and their families about the nature of co-occurring disorders
  • Incorporating holistic interventions such as mindfulness practices, exercise programs, nutrition counseling, and stress management techniques

How do you treat co-occurring disorders in adolescents?

Treating co-occurring disorders in adolescents involves a specialized approach that considers their unique developmental needs and challenges. Here are some key strategies used in the treatment of co-occurring disorders in teenagers:

Integrated Treatment Approach

This often involves a multidisciplinary team approach with professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and school counselors.

Family Involvement

Family members are engaged in the treatment process through family therapy, education sessions, and support groups. 

Developmentally Appropriate Interventions

Interventions are tailored to meet adolescents’ developmental stages and cognitive abilities. Age-appropriate language, activities, and therapeutic techniques resonate with their experiences and needs.

School-Based Interventions

Coordinate with schools to support academic success, provide educational accommodations if needed, and address any behavioral or social challenges that may impact treatment progress.

Trauma-Informed Care

Recognize and address any history of trauma that may contribute to substance use and mental health symptoms. Use trauma-informed approaches to create a safe and supportive treatment environment.

Peer Support Groups

Encourage participation in peer support groups that promote positive relationships and the sharing of experiences.

What are the challenges in treating someone with comorbidity?

Comorbidity describes the existence of two or more medical or psychological conditions occurring at the same time. In order to treat co-occurring disorders effectively, medical and mental health professionals must understand how the conditions affect a person’s physical and mental health, both together and separately. Co-occurring disorders often interact in ways that increase the risk of relapse, and many people with comorbidity have experienced trauma, which can complicate treatment and recovery. Developing a comprehensive treatment plan that treats the coexisting conditions simultaneously is crucial to recovery.

What are some considerations a counselor needs to remember when working with someone with co-occurring disorders?

A counselor needs to consider multiple factors when treating an individual with co-occurring disorders. Here are some key considerations:

  • Increase therapeutic structure and support.
  • Tailor treatment according to cultural differences.
  • Deliver empathetic and supportive treatment.
  • Ensure a continued focus on recovery.
  • Create a therapeutic alliance with the client.

What is the best assessment tool for co-occurring disorders?

There isn’t a single “best” assessment for diagnosing co-occurring disorders because the choice of assessment depends on many factors, but here are some common tools used for assessing co-occurring disorders:

  • The Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI)
  • The Addiction Severity Index (ASI)
  • The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 Disorders (SCID)
  • The Dual Diagnosis Screening Instrument (DDSI)
  • The Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI)
  • The Psychiatric Research Interview for Substance and Mental Disorders (PRISM)

What are some challenges that may inhibit a person identified with a co-occurring disorder from participating in medication-assisted therapies?

For some people who receive a dual diagnosis, difficulties with participation in medication-assisted therapy can influence their engagement and adherence to treatment. Here are some common challenges:

  • Stigma and misconceptions in seeking treatment.
  • Complex medication regimens.
  • Concerns about side effects.
  • Ambivalence or lack of motivation.
  • Past negative experiences with medication.
  • Environmental and financial stressors.
  • Cultural and linguistic barriers.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders at Into Action Recovery

We understand that treating both addiction and mental health is important for effective recovery. If you or a loved one needs help overcoming addiction, we’re here to get you started on your journey to life-long sobriety. 

Call us today at 844-303-3969 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our programs.

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