Insight for the Journey: Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders Requires a Plan

Insight for the Journey: Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders Requires a Plan

The field of chemical dependency treatment is rapidly changing. With each passing year we have a greater understanding of how mental health issues impact and affect substance abuse disorders. Additionally, substance abuse problems impact, launch or exacerbate mental health problems. At NorthStar Regional where I work, we wrestle with the intensity and the complexity of co-occurring disorders. 

Let Me Explain 

In trying to explain the intricacies of co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders, I stumbled upon the Rubik’s cube. This fascinating puzzle possesses the appearance of simplicity all the while abounding with baffling complexity. If you rotate one column on one axis, the solution required to put it back to its completed position needs only several rotations. If you move two columns separately on the same axis you increase the possible solutions. When you move columns and rows on three axes the possible configurations – skyrocket. 

The Rubik’s cube has over 43 quintillion different configurations or more precisely 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 different configurations. In the same way, substance abuse and mental health disorders each make the other one more severe. Substance use makes mental health problems more severe. Mental health problems make chemical dependency issues more severe. 

Finding the Solution 

But severity is not the chief difficulty. Rather, it’s the complexity. Like the rotations on three axes of the Rubik’s cube – it doesn’t merely create a more severe problem, it creates complexity in the problem and increased difficulty finding the solution. Here’s the good news, it doesn’t take 43 quintillion different moves to solve the cube. Although without knowledge of the problem and a good game plan – it might seem that way. 

Getting Good Treatment 

It is imperative for every client, every family member and every treatment professional to have a good, working knowledge of this emerging field of co-occurring disorders. This interaction between the two, slows the rate of recovery, makes treatment more complicated and increases the likelihood of relapse. Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders has two major goals: 1) Reduce symptoms of mental health and SUD and 2) Prevent relapse or the reoccurrence of the mental health or SUD. A good treatment plan considers the cultural, social, relational, occupational, economic, psychological, and spiritual factors in defining the current problem. A good plan then uses available client strengths, treatment resources, and community support to maintain client motivation and continue the recovery program long-term. Having awareness of the complexity of co-occurring disorders and accessing the required specialized treatment services creates a solution to this complicated puzzle. 

Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!

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