Understanding Dual Diagnosis and Treatment Options


Dual diagnosis refers to a mental health and a substance abuse diagnosis both occurring at the same time. When treating these types of presentations, it is important to find the program that will best fit the dual diagnosis presentation you or your loved one is showing. Substance abuse programs are licensed by the state of California to treat people who have a primary substance abuse diagnosis, and so the treatment often primarily focuses on that diagnosis, while incorporating elements of a mental health component. Most programs for the treatment of dual diagnoses are geared toward helping people cope. That approach leaves people with the feeling that they are still flawed or broken, and their way out is to accept that and find ways to endure. We are attempting to go beyond that and make a change.

At Balance, we believe that people with a dual diagnosis don’t have to feel that they have failed and can only seek to find a means of dealing with that failure. Humans can go further. As long as people are alive, there is a possibility to change. At Balance, we look at why people use substances. Understandably, people have strong feelings, ideas and filters that vary to a large degree when it comes to addiction and how it is treated.

The industry has over 50 different definitions for abuse and addiction, and there are a number of different treatment models practiced. Balance views substance use as a continuum ranging from using to addiction. Many treatment programs are geared toward the far end of that continuum. This neglects millions of people that fall in between, and often struggle to find their place in such programs.

At Balance, we work to find the obstacles that are behind the beliefs people are holding perpetuating the idea that they can never change and leading to anxiety, depression and beyond. Uncovering these faulty, and often long-held beliefs, can finally end the recurring cycles of dual diagnosis behavior.

Living with mental health challenges can be complex, especially when there are co-existing conditions. Dual diagnosis, a term used in mental health, refers to the presence of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Here we go into what dual diagnosis entails, how it impacts individuals, and the role therapists play in assisting those dealing with it.

Understanding Dual Diagnosis

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorders, refers to the occurrence of both a mental health disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously. This complex interaction can complicate diagnosis and treatment.

Dual diagnosis is more common than previously understood, affecting a significant portion of individuals seeking mental health treatment.

Challenges of Dual Diagnosis

Interconnected Nature of Disorders

The relationship between mental health disorders and substance use can exacerbate symptoms, making it challenging to address each condition independently.

Barriers to Treatment

Stigma, lack of access to integrated care, and difficulty in diagnosing both conditions contribute to the challenges of effectively treating dual diagnosis.

Identifying Dual Diagnosis

Symptoms of dual diagnosis can vary widely, but may include mood swings, changes in behavior, and substance cravings. Comprehensive evaluations by trained professionals are essential for accurately identifying dual diagnosis and developing tailored treatment plans.

Additionally, therapists carefully observe behavioral patterns and physical symptoms that may indicate the presence of both mental health and substance use disorders.

Moreover, therapists rely on their clinical expertise and knowledge of diagnostic criteria for mental health and substance use disorders to make accurate assessments. They consider the interconnected nature of these conditions and look for overlapping symptoms that may suggest dual diagnosis.

Treatment Approaches & Options

Integrated treatment approaches address both mental health and substance use disorders simultaneously, promoting better outcomes.

Role of Therapists

  • Therapists provide one-on-one counseling, offering a safe space for individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Group therapy sessions allow individuals with dual diagnosis to connect with others facing similar challenges, fostering support and understanding.
  • Involving family members in therapy can strengthen familial relationships and provide a supportive environment for recovery.

Your Therapist will work with you to identify which form of treatment or combination would be the most effective, and make suggestions as to which path makes the most sense to start down with regards to treatment.

Supporting Recovery

At Balance, we look at the whole person and try to investigate and understand the underlying conflicts causing dysregulation, pain, and psychological suffering in our clients and their families. We believe that if we focus solely on the symptoms, we will inhibit a client’s growth trajectory.

  • Holistic Approach - Therapists emphasize holistic approaches that address physical, emotional, and social aspects of well-being to support long-term recovery.
  • Relapse Prevention Strategies - Therapists equip individuals with coping skills and strategies to identify triggers and prevent relapse.
  • Education and Awareness - Raising awareness about dual diagnosis helps combat stigma and promotes understanding and empathy with the individual and family members.

Dual diagnosis presents unique challenges for individuals struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. However, with the support of therapists and access to comprehensive treatment approaches, recovery is possible.

By breaking stigma, raising awareness, and advocating for improved resources, we can create a more supportive environment for individuals with dual diagnosis to thrive.