How Integrated Treatment Can be Effective for Co-Occurring Disorders

How Integrated Treatment Can be Effective for Co-Occurring Disorders

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), co-occurring disorders are quite common—roughly 50 percent individuals have some kind of mental health disorder, in addition to a substance abuse diagnosis.

An integrated treatment approach differs from traditional treatment methodologies. Integrated treatment specialists do not treat the two types of disorders in isolation; rather, both the substance abuse disorder and mental health condition are treated simultaneously.

SAMHSA’s Support for Integrated Treatment

SAMHSA endorses an integrated approach to treating co-occurring disorders. One of SAMHSA’s goals is to promote evidence-based treatment methodologies for dual diagnosis disorders, and they have shown that integrated treatment has been proven to produce positive results.

According to SAMHSA, Integrated treatment often involves a collaborative approach. It brings in best practices from different subject areas and “addresses both mental health and substance abuse, each in the context of the other”.

Here are some of its outcomes:

  • Reduced substance use
  • Improved psychiatric symptoms and functioning
  • Decreased hospitalization
  • Decreased relapse

Critical Components of Integrated Treatment

Here are some essential aspects of an integrated treatment program:

Staged Interventions

Integrated treatment planners take into account where a patient is in the process of recovery with respect to both their substance use and mental health disorders. This helps them get a better understanding of the client’s strengths and limitations so they can devise a personalized strategy for treatment engagement and relapse prevention.

However, it should be remembered that clients do not “linearly” pass through and finish any stages. This means that some may come into therapy at an advanced stage of recovery, and relapse to an earlier stage; whereas, others may skip quickly to later stages of recovery.

At the same time, a client can be in different stages of recovery, both with respect to their mental and substance abuse disorders.

Motivational Interventions

Many patients, particularly those with co-occurring disorders, lack the readiness for abstinence-oriented treatment and may also not be willing to manage their psychiatric disorders.

This is where motivational interventions come into play. They aim to recognize the individual’s ambivalence and focus on client driven, self-management.


When aclient becomes motivated to manage his/her mental condition, he/she may also need to develop skills and support systems to better cope with stressors and symptoms.

Counseling, at this stage, might involve addressing interpersonal issues, losses, conflicts, role transitions and other sources of distress. Cognitive behavior therapy, motivational enhancement, relapse prevention and crisis planning might be some of the tools used to accomplish these tasks.

The counseling approach takes different forms and may include group, individual or family therapy, or a combination of all of them.

Social Support Interventions

Understanding the role that social environment may play in an individual’s path towards recovery, an integrated treatment approach also includes social support interventions. These interventions might involve developing a social network, family interventions, attending support groups and similar strategies, depending on the individual’s needs.

The practitioners at Mental Health Resources have rigorous training and years of experience in employing an integrated treatment approach to treating co-occurring disorders. Their intensive outpatient program for co-occurring or dual diagnosis disorders in Memphis, TN, has produced remarkable results, as evidenced here.

Lisa Scholfield

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