Specialized addiction treatment involving co-occurring disorders of alcohol and/or drug addiction and other mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression is a relatively new innovation in the field of addiction recovery. In the 1990’s, people experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder were treated separately from those seeking help for drug or alcohol abuse. Clients were often denied treatment for mental illness until they got clean and sober. Unfortunately, because substance abuse is often driven by an underlying psychiatric disorder, this meant that many people with a dual diagnosis condition never got the help they needed.
In the 21st century dual diagnosis recovery has led to the most effective approach to treating substance abuse and mental health disorders together. In 2002, only 12% of 4 million American adults who suffered from dual diagnosis received treatment for both conditions (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). In 2012, 37% of facilities in the U.S. offered clients with co-occurring disorders treatment for both conditions. (SAMHSA) It is paramount that dual diagnosis treatment is initiated by a mental health evaluation by a mental health professional or addiction specialist. Following that, parallel treatment of both mental health and substance use disorders should be conducted by highly trained treatment providers who incorporate the adjunct treatment of psychotherapeutic medication such as antidepressants.
In my own psychotherapy practice, I specialize in dual diagnosis treatment for clients who seek help for substance addiction and mental health disorders. I find this kind of work very rewarding because so many alcoholics and addicts need support addressing issues with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders, without which their chances of staying clean and sober will be limited.