Many people who have been abusing substances and developed dependency or addiction, also have a co-occurring mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These patients are known as dual diagnosis and because of the complexities of their treatment needs, they are recommended to attend specialist dual diagnosis drug rehab.

Where treatment of these patients differs from more straightforward addiction treatment is that both conditions need to be treated separately, while at the same time. However, before a personalized treatment program can be devised, an accurate diagnosis of the co-occurring mental illness needs to be achieved. Before a patient enters dual diagnosis rehab and after they have detoxed, they will generally enter into intensive evaluation and assessment to identify their specific treatment needs and a program devised to address them.

Why Do Some People Have Two Mental Illnesses and Is It Common in Addiction?

There are generally two ways a person can develop addiction and another mental health condition at the same time:

  • Either they used substances to self-medicate the symptoms of an existing mental illness, or
  • They developed the symptoms of mental illness as a direct result of substance abuse.

Because of these two “routes” to a person having both an addiction and a mental illness, it is extremely common in people with addiction illness although there are also highly effective treatment options available to them.

What Is CBT And How Is It Used To Treat Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Illness?

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is an evidence-based practice that has been researched academically and scientifically and proven effective in the treatment of dual diagnosis across a wide range of studies. The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that CBT provides an approach that integrates medical evidence, a patient’s values and the clinical experience of a therapist within the context of specialist treatment.

A CBT therapist will generally follow six steps in the treatment process:

  • Thorough assessment of the patient to identify their clinical needs which are achieved by asking the right questions in therapy.
  • Encourage the patient to research both conditions and look into all relevant investigations and studies. This is generally done through setting homework assignments.
  • Guide the patient to apply the knowledge they have gained through their research to their own case.
  • Discussion of research between therapist and patient to determine how to integrate results with their individual values and also their treatment needs and objectives.
  • Application of that knowledge through collaboration and developing a shared plan of action between therapist and patient.
  • Implementing the plan, monitoring success and recognizing achievements.

Why Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy So Effective in Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers?

CBT is recognized as the most effective evidence-based practice used in the treatment of dual diagnosis. This is because it allows patients to recognize the destructive thought processes and behavioral patterns that have driven their need to abuse substances. By guiding them through this journey of inner discovery, a CBT therapist can “unlock” the root causes of both conditions and encourage patients to make the necessary behavioral changes to enable them to cope.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that acts as an intervention in patients by positively influencing brain chemistry through changing the way a patient thinks and feels. Naturally, the relationship between therapist and patient is intensely trust-based which adds a “personal” dimension to treatment many find hugely supportive in recovery.

Essentially, CBT is so effective because it takes patients on an exploration of the way they think and feels about themselves, the world around them and their future in it. By identifying the negative behaviors that led to drug addiction it is then possible to alter them so that patients respond to triggers for substance abuse in healthier ways going forward.

The Importance of CBT to Patients with Addiction and Mental Illness

Although rehab is important for every person struggling with addiction issues, the complexities of suffering two conditions at the same time make it more so. This is because the interplay of addiction and an illness like depression can mean that the person is completely trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, with one condition fuelling the other. It is crucial that patients with addiction are also assessed for co-occurring mental health conditions not only because it is so common but also because they require specialist treatment. Despite the more complicated treatment needs of patients with addiction and mental illness, cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to be highly effective in providing the tools to make the significant changes needed for a sustainable recovery.

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