Exploring Co-Occurrence of Addiction and Mental Health Concerns

A new collaboration will provide increased resources, publications, events, and training opportunities for professional counselors, therapists, and advocates who care for individuals struggling with the co-occurrence of addiction and mental health disorders. The two organizations are Hazelden and NAADAC. Hazelden is a national non-profit organization that focuses on addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery for both addicts and their family members. NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals (formerly the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors) is a nationwide membership organization for addiction-focused health care professionals.

Addiction is very often accompanied by one or several additional mental health struggles. In many cases, depression, social isolation, PTSD or anxiety led the person to self-medicate through substances in the first place. In other cases, substance abuse can trigger depressive feelings and can drive away friends and family, making the emotional and psychological toll of the addiction that much worse. Often, the relationship between mental health and substance abuse is reciprocal and simultaneous. In fact, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that half of the Americans struggling with mental illness lean on drugs or alcohol to deal with their problems.

Effective addiction therapy or addiction counseling goes well beyond treating the physical addiction and behavioral compulsion alone. The more that therapists, counselors, and social workers understand about the co-occurrence of addiction with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other issues, the better treatment all clients will receive. Together, NAADAC and Hazelden plan to increase professional awareness of co-occurrence issues in a number of ways. They will provide training opportunities in the form of workshops, events, and web conferences, starting with this month’s launch of the Lifelong Training Program, Integrating Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: An Introduction to What Every Addiction Counselor Needs to Know. They will also increase access to print publications and web resources surrounding therapy and counseling for substance abuse, especially with co-occurring disorders.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Ruth


    September 15th, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    I was shocked to read that HALF the Americans with mental illnesses depend on drugs to deal with the problem. I think the fault lies in the fact that mental health care is not available to the majority of the population or even if it is available,it is way beyond most people’s budget.We need more affordable mental health care.

  • Jeremy


    September 15th, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    There you go!another proof that screams out that drug addicts be treated as victims and not law-breakers!!! Listen up,law-makers!!!

  • Jon


    September 16th, 2010 at 4:37 AM

    Of course they rely on this because you want to know why? What is the first thing that so many doctors do when a diagnosis of mental illness is made? They start writing those prescriptions! Drugs are not always the answer, and with people who are already suffering and trying to find new ways to self medicate this is the perfect solution. Unfortunately it tends to lead them down the path to even greater problems as they then begin to face issues with substance use and abuse and have that to battle along with the mental illness that they were already facing.

  • LEO


    September 16th, 2010 at 5:46 AM

    @Ruth:That is exactly the same ting that came to my mind!If there is adequate and AFFORDABLE treatment then why would anybody depend on shady alternatives?I just hope more people are able to get coverage and medical help with every new health cover law being introduced.

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