Critical Treatment Issues For Dual Disorders
Mental health and addiction treatment programs that are being designed to accommodate patients with dual disorders should be modified to address the specific needs of these patients. Although there are different dual disorder treatment models, all such programs must address several key issues that are critical for successful treatment. These issues include: 1) treatment engagement, 2) treatment continuity and comprehensiveness, 3) treatment phases, and 4) continual reassessment and rediagnosis.
In general, treatment engagement refers to the process of initiating and sustaining the patient’s participation in the ongoing treatment process. Engagement can involve such enticements as providing help with the procurement of social services, such as food, shelter, and medical services. Engagement can also involve removing barriers to treatment and making treatment more accessible and acceptable, for example, by providing day and evening treatment services. Engagement can be enhanced by providing adjunctive services that may appear to be indirectly related to the disorders, such as child care services, job skills counseling, and recreational activities. It may also be coercive, such as through involuntary commitment or a designated payee.
Engagement begins with efforts that are designed to enlist people into treatment, but it is a long-term process with the goals of keeping patients in treatment and helping them manage ongoing problems and crises. Essential to the engagement process is: 1) a personalized relationship with the individual, 2) over an extended period of time, with 3) a focus on the stated needs of the individual.
For patients with dual disorders, engagement in the treatment process is essential, although the techniques used will depend upon the nature, severity, and disability caused by an individual’s dual disorders. An employed person with panic disorder and episodic alcohol abuse will require a different type of engagement than a homeless person with schizophrenia and polysubstance dependence. With respect to severe conditions such as psychosis and violent behaviors, therapeutic coercive engagement techniques may include involuntary detoxification, involuntary psychiatric treatment, or court-mandated acute treatment.
To treat patients with dual disorders, it is critical to develop continuity between treatment programs and treatment components, as well as treatment continuity over time. In practice, many patients participate in treatment at different sites. Even in integrated treatment programs, many patients require different treatment services during different phases of treatment. For this reason, treatment should include an integrated dual disorder case management program, which can be located within a mental health setting, an addiction treatment setting, or a collaborative program.
An overall system for treating dual disorders includes mental health and addiction treatment programs, as well as collaborative integrated programs. Programs should be designed to: 1) engage clients, 2) accommodate various levels of severity and disability, 3) accommodate various levels of motivation and compliance, and 4) accommodate patients in different phases of treatment. There should be access to abstinence-mandated programs and abstinence-oriented programs, as well as to drug maintenance programs. Different levels of care, ranging from more to less intense treatment, should be available.