What to Expect In Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

Feb 14, 2023

Substance use disorders and mental health issues often go hand in hand, making addiction recovery and relapse prevention a complex process. According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among adults 18 and older, roughly 50% of those who have had a serious mental illness in the past year reported using illicit drugs during the same period. That number topped nearly 40% for those struggling with any mental illness.

These numbers reflect how critical it is to find an addiction recovery center that offers dual diagnosis treatment for substance abuse and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

“We feel strongly that recovery from addiction is a lifelong process involving spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional change,” Preston Dixon said. Dixon is the COO at Renaissance Ranch, an all-male, faith-based drug rehab headquartered in Bluffdale, Utah. “It’s essential that we use every tool in our toolbox to treat the whole person, not just the addiction.”

What to Expect In Dual-Diagnosis Treatment

(Ben White/Unsplash)

Detox Is Just the Beginning

In a person with a dual diagnosis, it can be challenging to determine where one disorder begins and the other ends. Sometimes, a substance abuser will drink or use to self-medicate an existing mental illness. Other times, substance abuse changes the brain chemistry to cause or accelerate the development of a mental disorder. In addition, the severity of each can differ considerably.

The first step in any substance abuse rehab program should be detoxification. This process may occur with or without the aid of medication. Your body has to be rid of the substances and clear of withdrawal symptoms so medical professionals can more accurately determine your needs in terms of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional therapies.

Ensure Treatment Includes Key Mental Health Services

Next, confirm that your chosen drug rehab has a robust mental health team. When looking for dual-diagnosis coverage, knowing your acronyms and what issues they address is essential.

The following are some of the more common mental health treatment modalities and how they are used:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) – Talk therapy that addresses harmful thought patterns and how they relate to negative behaviors. CBT primarily helps those with anxiety or depression to develop new ways to think about their problems and how they respond to them. It’s also a helpful process in setting and achieving short-term goals.
  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) – EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, such as following the therapist’s finger with your eyes, to occupy your focus while you retell a painful or traumatic event. It has proven incredibly effective in helping people with post-traumatic stress identify and change the negative or disturbing feelings they experience when revisiting past trauma.
  • DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) – Dialectical therapy is a form of CBT and is often used with persons who have trouble regulating their emotions, such as those with a borderline personality disorder. The dialectical method, defined as arguing an idea from opposing positions to arrive at a common truth, helps a person address negative thought patterns from a dispassionate perspective.
  • MI (motivational interviewing) – MI represents a form of communication that involves helping a person develop a desire for change and then facilitating that change. The four key components of MI are: One, engaging the client through active and reflective listening, or listening to understand; two, focusing on the matter at hand; three, evoking responses that identify their thoughts and beliefs and exploring what motivates them; and four, planning with them and working through how they want to go about achieving their goals. MI can be used for many mental health disorders, but it’s especially effective in treating people with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), anxiety, and depression.
  • EFT (emotion-focused therapy) – This modality strengthens interpersonal relationships by practicing empathy, vulnerability, and understanding. EFT operates on the premise that our emotions are part of who we are, not just intermittent feelings that wash over us. Addiction and mental illness isolate people and fracture critical family and friend relationships. EFT offers family members and their loved ones in treatment the opportunity to examine and rebuild those connections in a safe, therapeutic environment.
  • ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) – As its name implies, ACT works by helping a person learn to accept both their good and bad experiences in life and acknowledge that the feelings associated with those events are valid. Trying to escape from the problem or our reaction to it only keeps us stuck. Using ACT, we can look at past trauma or current challenges and accept them while we commit to aligning our thoughts and behaviors with our values and goals. ACT can help those who suffer from anxiety, depression, OCD, and psychosis.

Focus on Faith

Finally, let’s not forget a major asset in dual-diagnosis treatment – Faith. While people have vastly different opinions on the role of religion in mental health and addiction recovery, most studies show a positive correlation between belief in a higher power and sustained recovery. Of nearly 300 evidence-based studies, researchers Koenig and colleagues found that 84% of them showed faith and religious observance reduced the risks of drug abuse. In the same project, 86% of the studies indicated that religiosity reduced the risk for alcoholism, as well.

Other research also points to decreased rates of depression and suicidal ideation and better mental health in people of faith. As a Christian treatment center, Renaissance Ranch utilizes the faith-based 12-Step program to tackle substance abuse and improve mental health. “Substance abusers need to build faith in God, in other people, and in themselves, in order to heal their spirits and overcome addiction,” Dixon said.