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8 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center

Dual diagnosis?

When you’re struggling with mental health issues, basic daily tasks can feel daunting—even with the support of family members.

Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can rob you of your sense of self-efficacy, and this is often compounded if you are trying to manage a substance use disorder or drug addiction at the same time.

Mental illness is difficult to manage on its own, but when its paired with a substance use disorder, recovering on your own may feel downright impossible. However, if this situation sounds familiar to you, it may be helpful to know that you are not alone.

You are not alone

Mental health disorders that exist simultaneously with substance use disorders—a pairing known as occurring or co-occurring disorders—are common in the U.S. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that 9.2 million American adults currently manage a co-occurring illness, also known as a dual diagnosis.

Understanding Dual Diagnosis Programs

People who struggle with substance use disorders often have a dual diagnosis, which is why many addiction-centered rehab centers offer specific dual diagnosis programs. For people who have a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, the comprehensive approach offered by a dual diagnosis treatment center can help you find effective treatment and begin the road toward a brighter tomorrow.

Motorcycle on a trail

Addressing your mental health conditions and substance use concerns together can help you fully hit the restart button and get on the most optimal treatment plan. However, it can be difficult to determine what dual diagnosis program is the best fit for your situation.

The types of programs that dual diagnosis treatment centers offer can vary greatly, but information is power. Here are eight crucial questions you need to ask when choosing a dual diagnosis center.

a dual diagnosis program will likely be your number one destination if you know your mental health disorder

1. Which conditions are managed by your program?

If you are seeking treatment for a mental health condition in addition to a substance use disorder, it’s helpful to know specifically which conditions are managed by a prospective dual diagnosis treatment center. Ask whether common mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar depression, and PTSD are managed in the treatment program.

mental health conditions: anxiety disorder, panic disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar depression, ptsd.

Depending on your situation, it’s also important to inquire about whether management of less common mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia or eating disorders is included. You will also want to know how the program manages drug and alcohol use disorders and how treatment planning generally proceeds.

A dual diagnosis program will likely be your number one destination if you know your mental health disorder—meaning that you have an official diagnosis and understand your condition. However, you may also want to inquire whether a rehabilitation center that has a dual diagnosis program affiliation offers intake screenings for people who are unaware of their underlying mental health conditions. 

Often, mental health disorders get uncovered during treatment for substance use disorders, so you will want to make sure that you will receive comprehensive care if a condition is uncovered throughout your treatment for substance abuse.

2. What types of program structures are available?

Dual diagnosis treatment centers can be freestanding, or they can exist in conjunction with other therapeutic offerings such as rehab facilities. When this is the case, you may have access to all of the offerings of the rehab facility, in addition to the specialized dual diagnosis treatment program. This may be important if you need to go through medical detoxification (“detox”) before initiating your care plan.

The structure of a dual diagnosis program can also influence how many hours of daily contact you have with support systems. For example, at the highest level of care, known as inpatient or residential treatment, you may live on the premises of a treatment facility with access to 24/7 supervision and professional support. This is often a very helpful introduction to a rehab program.

However, other structures exist for people interested in dual diagnosis treatment. For example, a facility may offer a partial hospitalization program, an intensive outpatient program, or more standard outpatient services. This may be useful if you have already completed a comprehensive treatment program and are in a maintenance stage when managing your dual diagnosis.

3. What behavioral health services are offered?

One of the most fundamental components of a dual diagnosis treatment program is its behavioral therapy offerings. Make sure to inquire about types of therapy and counseling that are offered, as different philosophies can make a difference in your recovery process, and having access to a variety of methods can also be constructive. 

For example, some dual diagnosis programs offer a mix of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and EMDR Therapy. A therapeutic mix can ensure that your needs get met at every step of the way. Even outpatient treatment settings usually offer a mix of therapies including group therapy and recreational support outlets.

In addition to the different types of therapy offered, it may also be prudent to ask about the different forms of therapy available. In dual diagnosis programs, you may have access to individualized counseling, group counseling, or even family therapy modalities.

4. Is medication-assisted treatment available?

When it comes to medication-assisted therapy (MAT) and addiction treatments, not all dual diagnosis programs are created equally. If you are interested in using prescription medication to help you transition away from dependency on a substance or to maintain your sobriety from that substance, it will be important for you to know what kind of medications will be available to you during your treatment. 

According to SAMHSA, when implemented using evidence-based protocols, medication-assisted treatment can help people with substance use disorders increase their survival, improve their likelihood of sticking with treatment plans, and even improve their likelihood of gainful employment after completing treatment.

The various types of medication that may be included in a dual diagnosis treatment program include:

  • Medications used in major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), or benzodiazepines.
  • Medications used to help people struggling with mental health-related side effects and sleep disturbances.
  • Medications used for alcohol use disorder, such as acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone.
  • Medications used for opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone.

In addition to asking about the types of medication-assisted treatment available, you may also want to make sure that any current medications that you are taking are also supported by the program so that you have appropriate continuity of care.

5. Is your program licensed and accredited?

When deciding to pursue treatment for a dual diagnosis, you must select a facility that is both licensed and accredited. The premiere agency overseeing rehabilitation facilities is the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). If a program has received accreditation through this program, you can rest assured that it will provide evidence-based, high-quality treatment.

6. How does your program help me learn life skills?

When you are in the throes of an alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, in addition to a mental illness, it is easy to fall out of touch with daily life. Many people who receive treatment through a dual diagnosis program arrive on the other side, realizing that there is a gap in their knowledge base or that they need to learn a new skill to be a viable candidate for employment. Make sure to ask if a dual diagnosis program offers services such as aftercare planning that can connect you with the resources you need to start on the right foot.

7. What other treatments are offered?

Getting treatment for a dual diagnosis can be very straightforward, or it can be augmented by programs that yield an added benefit. These programs, such as mindfulness training, spirituality education, or yoga therapy, may add additional sources of healing during your recovery journey. Make sure to ask about other treatment components that are offered by a prospective program, in addition to their core offerings.

8. What are the amenities?

When you’re getting help for a substance use disorder and mental illness, it can help tremendously to have a comfortable, quiet, and peaceful recovery environment. Many dual diagnosis programs offer amenities that can aid in your recovery journey by providing helpful outlets for stress, or opportunities for relaxation. You may also want to ask about the general layout and design of the treatment facility, especially if you are keen on the inpatient setting.

Finding Support for Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders

Finding a dual diagnosis program that fits your needs does not have to be a challenge. At The Recovery Team, we are well-versed in helping our dual diagnosis clients achieve sobriety and freedom from their mental health conditions, all while enjoying a state-of-the-art treatment facility. We incorporate the most up-to-date and evidence-based practices to support our clients as they heal, learn new life skills, and begin the journey to a life of sobriety and mental stability.

To learn more about our dual diagnosis program for co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illness, contact us today.