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How to Find Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Learn more about the benefits of seeking co-occurring disorders treatment in this comprehensive article.


Co-occurring disorders treatment involves comprehensive care for people with mental health challenges and problems with misusing substances like drugs or alcohol.

Essentially, co-occurring disorders treatment addresses these two conditions at the same time rather than just putting a bandaid over any subsequent symptoms.1
This is important because these two conditions can often play off of each other. When someone has a mental health issue, it might make them more likely to use substances to cope, worsening the condition. Using substances can cause mental health issues due to brain structure and function changes.
co-occurring disorders treatment

How is Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment Designed?

The treatment for co-occurring disorders is designed to tackle the root of both conditions at the same time. It often involves a combination of therapy (talking to a counselor or therapist) and medication. Patients also learn new skills to manage both mental health and substance use.
This kind of treatment takes into account the fact that these two problems are connected, taking a whole-person, holistic approach to sustainable healing.
Co-occurring disorders treatment can be difficult due to the complexity of each condition. However, treating them together gives patients a better chance of recovering and feeling healthier in the long run.2

How Prevalent Are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders involve diagnosing a mental health and substance use condition. These conditions coexist relatively often. According to 2021 national surveys, 9.2 million American adults live with a co-occurring disorder. Since then, this trend of co-occurring conditions has only increased.3

Goals of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

The main goals of co-occurring disorders treatment are to help people feel better mentally and tackle substance misuse. When it comes to managing these complex conditions, there are a few essential factors to keep in mind. These will be detailed below.

Understanding and Assessment

Before proceeding with any treatment, doctors and experts engage in a thorough diagnostic process. This involves delving into the individual’s mental health and substance use history to gain a comprehensive understanding of their background.
Subsequently, a series of assessments are conducted to gauge the severity of each condition and to elucidate any potential interconnections between them.
This meticulous diagnostic journey lays the foundation for effective and targeted interventions, ensuring that the subsequent treatment approach is tailored to address the unique needs of the individual.

Integrated Approach

The integrated approach to treatment focuses on addressing both conditions concurrently. This two-fold strategy aims to tackle mental health challenges and substance use issues in tandem, recognizing the interconnected nature of these factors.

Personalized Care

Each person is different. With that, treatment plans should be curated to fit an individual’s unique needs, goals, and experiences. No two treatment plans should be exactly the same.

Relapse Prevention

Treatment isn’t always smooth sailing. Sometimes, there are setbacks or relapses. It’s important to remember that relapse is often just another stage of the recovery process. The right treatment helps people learn how to cope with these challenges and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Improving Well-Being

The ultimate aim is to help the person feel better and achieve recovery. That means managing symptoms and helping them lead a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life.

Support and Education

People are given the tools to understand their conditions better. They also learn skills to manage their mental health and substance use.
Remember, the co-occurring disorders treatment journey might not be easy. Still, with the proper treatment and support, many people can learn to manage these complex conditions and lead fulfilling lives.

Strategies Employed in Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Since mental health and substance use disorders often affect each other, co-occurring disorders treatment uses special strategies to handle them together. This approach looks at the big picture by helping the whole person.
Here are some ways that doctors and experts make sure the treatment covers both aspects:

Combined Therapies

Dual diagnosis treatment employs a variety of therapies to effectively address both mental health and substance use concerns. Therapists devote time to uncovering the underlying triggers of each problem, delving into the root causes.

Engaging in open conversations about these matters can significantly impact the success of the treatment process.


Sometimes, medications can help with mental health conditions and the urge to use substances. Doctors decide which ones might work best for each person’s situation.4

Learning Skills

In treatment, patients are taught new skills to handle challenging situations. They learn how to deal with cravings and stress. Patients also learn how to handle difficult emotions without turning to substances.
Further, developing life skills – such as social or vocational training – can often be a catalyst in maintaining sobriety and wellness.

Support Groups

Being around others who understand what they’re going through can help individuals feel a sense of community and accountability. Support groups provide a safe space to share experiences and receive necessary encouragement.

Therapy That Fits

Different types of therapy are used to help with various issues. For example, someone with anxiety might benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
However, other individuals may opt for non-traditional therapeutic techniques, such as experiential therapy (like art or recreational therapy) or may choose to use these treatments to complement their more traditional treatment.

Setting Goals

Experts work together to set realistic, attainable goals for co-occurring disorders treatment. This provides a clear direction and helps track progress.

Family Involvement

Sometimes, family and friends are included in the treatment. Their support can make a big difference in a person’s recovery.

Lifestyle Changes

The treatment looks at the person’s lifestyle as a whole – sleep, exercise, and eating habits. Everything that affects mental health and substance use is accounted for.

Long-Term Plan

Recovery takes time, so the treatment doesn’t just focus on short-term fixes. It helps people plan for the future and stay on track. These strategies help tackle both mental health conditions and substance use at the same time. This way, people can work toward feeling better and staying healthy.
Aftercare services can help individuals with continued support as they reintegrate into their lives post-treatment.

The Role of Psychoeducation in Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

In co-occurring disorders treatment, psychoeducation is used to help people understand how their mental health and substance use are connected.5

Understanding the Connection

Imagine having two friends who often negatively influence each other. Mental health and substance use are like those friends. Psychoeducation explains how one condition can affect the other.
For example, feeling down due to a mental health condition might make someone want to use substances. Substance use also causes brain changes that may increase the likelihood of mental health conditions.

Knowing the Triggers

Psychoeducation helps people recognize what objects, people, or environments trigger certain behaviors. This way, they can be prepared and make better choices.

Learning Coping Strategies

Suitable coping mechanisms are like a toolbox for feeling better. Psychoeducation teaches these strategies. Instead of reaching for substances, people can use these tools to handle challenging situations.

Building Confidence

Understanding how their mind works gives people confidence. They know that they have the power to overcome their mental health and substance use.

Making Informed Choices

People can make smarter decisions when they know how their conditions are connected. They can choose actions that won’t worsen their mental health or substance use.

Preventing Relapses

A relapse occurs when individuals revert back to substance use or mental health challenges. Psychoeducation helps people see the signs of relapse early so they can take action to prevent it.
Psychoeducation gives people the knowledge they need to understand their minds and emotions. It helps them make the right choices that lead to a better, healthier life.

How Therapies Contribute to the Success of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Therapies provided by the right professionals are special tools that help treat co-occurring disorders. Therapies address vital issues and play a significant role in making co-occurring disorders treatment successful.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps each person see how their thoughts affect their feelings and actions. CBT enables individuals to understand how this connection occurs.
It also teaches individuals how to change those negative thoughts. It allows individuals to manage urges to use substances by introducing new ways to cope.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT teaches each person a healthy language of emotions. It helps individuals understand and manage their feelings, especially the tough ones. DBT provides strategies to handle emotions without turning to substance use.6

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a friendly conversation with a purpose. It helps individuals find the motivation to make positive changes.
These therapies teach new skills and help individuals understand themselves better. Therapy also gives individuals the power to make choices that lead to feeling happier and healthier. With therapy sessions, everyone has a team of experts by their side, helping them step by step.

How Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Play a Role in Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment?

Besides conventional therapy, certain medications may be used in co-occurring disorders treatment. Here’s how it works:

Balancing the Brain

Just like some people need glasses to see better, some need medications to help their brains work better. These medications can help manage mood and thoughts.

Reducing Cravings

Cravings are strong desires to use substances. Medications can help lessen these cravings, making it easier to resist the urge.

Individualized Approach

Just like everyone is unique, medication needs are unique to each person. Doctors figure out which medication will work best for each person. They make these prescriptions after considering mental health and substance use.

Supporting Progress

As people work on getting better, medications can provide a boost. The right medication can help manage withdrawal symptoms. This enables each patient to focus on treatment goals without constant struggle.
Remember, these medications are like tools. They’re not a magic fix, but they can make a big difference when used along with therapy and support. It’s all about finding the right balance to help each person feel better and manage mental health and substance use.

Factors Contributing to the Long-Term Success of Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

Making co-occurring disorders treatment successful in the long run takes care, attention, and the right tools. Some factors contributing to the long term success of co-occurring disorders treatment will be detailed below.

Staying Committed

Recovery takes time. Being patient and sticking to the treatment plan, even when things get tough, is essential.

Support Network

Family, friends, and support groups can help individuals stay on track with their recovery.

Healthy Lifestyle

Just like eating good food and exercising keeps the body healthy, taking care of the mind is also important. Getting enough sleep, eating well, and staying active can boost overall mood.

Avoiding Risk Factors for Relapse

Risk factors for relapse are situations or people that make individuals want to use substances. Learning to recognize and avoid them can help individuals stay on track.

Coping Skills

Life can be challenging. But, having strategies to deal with stress, cravings, and complicated emotions helps people avoid returning to old habits.

Ongoing Therapy

Even after individuals start feeling better, continuing therapy and counseling helps them maintain their overall well-being and mental health.

Medication Management

If medications are part of treatment, taking them as prescribed and keeping up with doctor’s appointments is vital.

Regular Check-Ins

Regular appointments with the treatment team can help keep recovery on track. Additionally, this enables the treatment team to pivot the route of recovery when necessary, ensuring optimal chances for sustained sobriety.

Adjusting the Plan

Life changes, and sometimes the treatment plan must also change. Flexibility and being open to adjustments can make a big difference.

Celebrate Progress

Acknowledging achievements, even the small ones, boosts overall motivation and confidence. The key to long-term success is a combination of commitment, support, healthy habits, ongoing treatment, and learning to navigate challenges. With these tools, individuals can continue to grow, recover, and lead a happier, healthier life.
co-occurring disorders treatment

How Can South Shore Recovery Center Help?

South Shore Recovery Center is an outpatient addiction treatment center in Plymouth, Massachusetts. We provide a wide variety of treatment options, including:
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
  • Routine outpatient programs

Our Dedicated Staff

We are fully staffed with highly-qualified medical experts with the primary goal of delivering the most effective care. We confidently offer a 2:1 staff-to-patient ratio to ensure round-the-clock care.
At each stage of treatment, we do our absolute best to find creative solutions to get patients involved and excited about the recovery process.

Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment

We offer co-occurring disorders treatment for various conditions, including:
  • Anger  
  • Anxiety  
  • Bipolar disorder  
  • Chronic impulsivity  
  • Codependency  
  • Depression  
  • Eating disorders  
  • Emotional disturbance  
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder  
  • Self-esteem issues  
  • Trauma/PTSD  
  • Cutting addiction  
  • Compulsive gambling  
  • Video game addiction  
  • Kleptomania  
  • Exercise addiction 

Contact South Shore Recovery Center Today

If you or your loved one are ready to begin healing from co-occurring disorders, know that you don’t have to undergo recovery alone. Our South Shore Recovery Center team is here to provide you with the support you need to regain autonomy over your life and wellness.
Reach out to us today and begin healing.
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Questions About Treatment?

If you or your loved one are ready to begin healing from substance use disorder or mental health challenges in Plymouth, Massachusetts, South Shore Recovery is here for you. Let us guide you on your journey toward sustainable wellness by reaching out to our knowledgeable and compassionate team today.