Many people suffering from addiction also suffer from a co-occurring mental illness. Because of this, mental health institutions treat a lot of addicts. Conversely, drug rehabs provide mental health treatment for many of their residents. In many ways, treatment for drug addiction and treatment for mental illness overlap.
Can you expect good mental health treatment at a drug rehab? Due to their indisputable connection, good drug rehabs provide excellent treatment for a range of mental illnesses.
Here is what you can expect from mental health treatment at a drug rehab.
How are addiction and mental illness connected?
In order to understand why treatment so often overlaps, it is necessary to explain just how addiction and mental illness are connected.
The correlation between addiction and mental illness goes both ways. Many individuals suffering from mental illnesses turn to substances for relief. People suffering from OCD, for example, often turn to alcohol or other downers to quiet their minds. People suffering from depression may turn to alcohol and drugs for a pick-me-up. People suffering from anxiety may use them for increased confidence. There are many such examples.
On the other hand, mental illness can come about because of addiction to alcohol or drugs. Instead of developing and maintaining healthy coping mechanisms, addicts begin to depend on substances. Their coping mechanisms break down with disuse, and eventually lead to patterns of mental illness. Furthermore, there is evidence that some substances can trigger latent mental illnesses.
As such, drug rehabs need to treat mental illnesses if they are to be successful at treating addiction. Here is how they do so.
For a start, drug rehabs assess every resident for a dual diagnosis. This means that they check for symptoms of mental illness and diagnose underlying issues. Good drug rehabs employ psychiatrists with experience working in both addiction and mental illness. They are intimately familiar with the signs of both, and are able to distinguish which are actually symptoms of mental illness and which are caused entirely by substance use.
Psychiatrists will assess family and personal history, as well as meeting with residents regularly to monitor their progress in rehab and reassess their diagnosis.
A psychiatrist will also provide medication when necessary. This may include antidepressants, antipsychotics, sleeping aids, and more. In a drug rehab center, they will be particularly careful not to prescribe any medication that is at all addictive.
While group sessions are fundamental to addiction recovery, individual therapy is better suited to treating mental illnesses. Good drug rehabs provide individual therapy for all residents, but it is especially important in dual diagnosis cases.
There are a number of methods in individual therapy ideal for treating mental illness in a drug rehab, including:
- Talk therapy. Talk therapy delves into the individual’s history, searching for clues as to what events led to the person’s difficulties. Finding these answers helps to identify what basic assumptions and beliefs need to be changed in order for the person to heal. It can also unveil where the person’s attitude towards substances came from.
- CBT. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on challenging thoughts which cause a person’s dysfunction. It is particularly useful for treating anxiety disorders. The simple process helps the individual identify problematic thoughts, then test the thoughts against reality. Over time, the person begins thinking in a healthier, more productive way. It is also very useful for challenging a person’s thoughts about substance use.
DBT. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines CBT methods with mindfulness. The core of the practice is about finding a new way of perceiving pain, including difficult emotions and thoughts. Rather than challenging thoughts (although reality testing is a supplementary technique), DBT asks individuals to cease their judgment of thoughts and feelings, helping them become less reactive and more at peace. It is also very useful in helping addicts manage urges which may at first seem insurmountable.
One of the advantages about mental health treatment in a drug rehab is that addiction treatment needs to be very practical. When a resident leaves inpatient treatment, they have to be able to maintain their sobriety in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life. For this purpose, focus is placed on continued care once inpatient treatment ends.
A focus is also placed on occupational therapies, which train a substance user to schedule their days in a healthy manner, with goals and commitments, as well as backup plans and crisis management. This comes in handy for people suffering from mental illness, as they learn to live a successful, fulfilled life on their own terms, without falling back into old patterns the moment a crisis occurs.
Addiction is known to be a family illness. One way or another, the whole family is affected, and in order for the individual to recover, some work needs to be done with the family. Family therapy has therefore become a significant part of addiction treatment.
This is as helpful for individuals struggling with mental illness. A tough family situation can be a constant barrier against progress, as the person finds that unhealthy habits and coping mechanisms a natural alternative to family dysfunction. On the other hand, a healthy family can provide the support that helps the person progress, growing along with their family. Instead of family being an obstacle, they become a helpful part of maintaining mental wellness.
Mental Health Treatment in Drug Rehab
Drug rehab centers are essentially different from other mental health institutions. However, a large proportion of addicts suffer from mental illness, and drug rehabs can provide excellent treatment for them. For progress to occur, both conditions need to be treated together, which is what all the best drug rehab centers do.
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