Mental Health And Addiction Treatment Theories and Approaches
For people with dual disorders (also known as “dual diagnosis”), the attempt to obtain professional help can be bewildering and confusing. They may have problems arising within themselves as a result of their psychiatric and alcohol and other drug (AOD) use disorders as well as problems of external origin that derive from the conflicts, limitations, and clashing philosophies of the mental health and addiction treatment systems. For example, internal problems such as frustration, denial, or depression may hinder their ability to recognize the need for help and diminish their ability to ask for help. A typical external problem might be the confusion experienced when individuals need services but lack knowledge about the different goals and processes of various types of available services. Other problems of external origin may be very fundamental, such as the inability to pay for child care services or the lack of transportation to the only available outpatient program.
Historically, when patients in alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment exhibited vivid and acute psychiatric symptoms, the symptoms were either: 1) unrecognized, 2) observed but misdescribed as toxicity or “acting-out behavior,” or 3) accurately identified, prompting the patients to be discharged or referred to a mental health program. Virtually the same process occurred for patients in mental health treatment who exhibited vivid and acute symptoms of AOD use disorders.
Mislabeling, rejecting, failing to recognize, or automatically transferring patients with dual disorders can result in inadequate treatment, with patients falling between the cracks of treatment systems. The symptoms of psychiatric and AOD use disorders often fluctuate in intensity and frequency. Current symptom presentation may reflect a short-term change in the course of long-term dual disorders. Thus, even when patients receive traditional professional help, treatment may address only selected aspects of their overall problem unless treatment is coordinated among services including AOD, mental health, social, and medical programs.
As a result, the treatment system itself may be a stumbling block for some people attempting to receive ongoing, appropriate, and comprehensive treatment for combined psychiatric and AOD use disorders. Thus, treatment services for patients with dual disorders must be sensitive to both the individual’s and the treatment system’s impediments to the initiation and continuation of treatment.
Treatment Systems: Mental Health, Addiction, And Medical
People with dual disorders who want to engage in the treatment process (or who need to do so) frequently encounter not one but several treatment systems, each having its own strengths and weaknesses. These treatment systems have different clinical approaches.
The Mental Health System
Actually, there is no single mental health system, although most States have a set of public mental health centers. Rather, mental health services are provided by a variety of mental health professionals including psychiatrists; psychologists; clinical social workers; clinical nurse specialists; other therapists and counselors including marriage, family, and child counselors (MFCCs); and paraprofessionals.
These mental health personnel work in a variety of settings, using a variety of theories about the treatment of specific psychiatric disorders. Different types of mental health professionals (for example, social workers and MFCCs) have differing perspectives; moreover, practitioners within a given group often use different approaches.