In 2014 alone, about 7.9 million adults had co-occurring disorders, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That means millions of people also had mental illnesses in addition to addiction concerns. People like this most certainly can get better and overcome their mental health challenges, but they often need specialized care to make a real and lasting recovery possible. People with those concerns can get the care they need through a residential treatment program that specializes in assisting with addiction and mental health. Here’s how a program like that typically works.

How Treatment Begins

When drug abuse and mental health issues hit the same person at the same time, it can be difficult for families to know which issue is causing which difficulty their loved one is facing. Are those hallucinations due to drugs or schizophrenia? Is paranoia triggered by alcohol or borderline personality disorder? Separating one condition from the other is not always easy.

That is why residential treatment centers use a very careful and cautious approach to the diagnosis issue. When people enroll in care, they might spend a day or two under close monitoring in a medical detox program, so clinicians can ensure that people are sober and prepared for assessments.

Then, according to the website Patient, clinicians can provide a number of different tests that can help to differentiate signs of mental illness from signs of substance abuse. They might ask the person in rehab direct questions about symptoms, or they might ask family members, friends, and medical providers for background information on how the person behaved before the illness and how the person behaves now.

When all of the testing and questionnaires are complete, clinicians should have a good idea of the scope of the substance abuse issue, along with the presence of mental health issues that are complicating that addiction problem. With that data, clinicians can prepare a treatment program that can help.

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Creating the Treatment Plan

For people dealing with both addictions and mental health concerns, counseling can be a wonderful help. In fact, in a study in the Journal of Addiction, researchers interviewed 379 people and asked them to name the one factor that was most closely tied to their sense of satisfaction with a treatment program. The researchers found that the quality of the group counseling provided was closely tied to how satisfied people felt with the program as a whole. Clearly, counseling matters, and it is likely to play a major role in any treatment program people might enroll in.

A residential treatment program might devote several hours each day to counseling. People might spend time in individual counseling for their mental health concerns, and then they might spend time in group counseling sessions for addiction. They might also spend time in family counseling sessions, so they can mend fences with the people they love. Some might go to topic-specific counseling sessions to pick up the skills they might need to stay sober and healthy in the long run.

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In addition to counseling, people who enroll might spend time in 12-Step support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These meetings provide people with the opportunity to learn from their peers in a supportive and structured environment that is made specifically to assist with the common problems people might have when they are living with addictions.

Support groups in this 12-Step model were not specifically designed to assist with mental health concerns, but they can have a profound impact on people in treatment. For example, in a study in the American Journal on Addictions, researchers found that 12-Step meetings were associated with better outcomes in people who had a dual diagnosis. Studies like this show that these meetings can provide people with the learning opportunities they might need, and they can be a good option for people in residential programs.

While counseling and support groups can provide a great deal of support, some mental illnesses cause a deeper sort of problem that requires a specialized solution. That solution might involve medications. The use of medications might be helpful for people dealing with:

Medications help to soothe the chemical and electrical imbalances that can lead to these mental health concerns, and studies show that they can be very effective. For example, in a study in The Lancet, researchers examined 15 different types of antipsychotic drugs and measured their impact on schizophrenia. They found that all of the drugs were better than placebos in controlling symptoms. Clearly, when they are used in the right way, medications can help.

The risk of medication abuse is reduced in a residential program, as there are supervisors and staffers available around the clock to monitor the use of the drugs. The medications are kept in locked cabinets, and they are handed out at specific times. This means less risk of diversion or abuse, and a higher likelihood that the person will take them properly.

Other Amenities

In addition to the therapies outlined above, a residential treatment program typically provides a host of other, alternative therapies that could help to soothe the distress caused by an addiction, a mental illness, or both.

For example, many facilities offer a suite of exercise opportunities, including walking trails, golf, swimming opportunities, tennis, weight rooms, and yoga classes. These amenities can help people to stretch their bodies and soothe their minds while they deal with recovery, and all of the things people might need in order to participate are right there, ready to go, on the grounds of the facility. Some programs offer suggested exercise times, while others leave exercise open to the whims of the people who enroll. Either could be a good option.

Some facilities also offer alternative therapies that could ease mental distress, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Acupressure
  • Herbal therapy

These therapies could help to calm a restless mind and soothe an unhappy body, and both could be ideal for people who are enrolled in a residential program.

Since people who enroll in residential programs move into the facilities in which they will be receiving care, they will also expect to get food as part of their care plan. That food could be a key part of the healing process.

According to Today’s Dietitian, proper nutrition is key to the substance abuse recovery process, because macronutrient and micronutrient deficits can lead to all sorts of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and low energy. All of these symptoms could make an underlying mental health problem worse, and all of them could lead to a drug relapse.

In a residential program, the dietary team provides meal plans that can help people to recover. Since food can be a deep source of pleasure and joy, those meals are also often delicious and gourmet.

Who Can Help?

Running a residential treatment program is not easy, and often, it takes an entire team of professionals to do the job right. That means residential programs might have mental health providers on staff, including physicians, psychiatrists, and counselors, but they might also have recovery coaches, therapists, and sober peers. Every person has a different role to play in the recovery process.

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That process might extend long after the formal treatment program is complete. As an article in Everyday Health points out, addiction can be considered a chronic and relapsing condition. Despite treatment, some people return to their drug use in time. Residential programs can help by providing aftercare services that bridge the gap between inpatient care and home life. Those services might include alumni programs, sober support groups, touchup counseling, and more.

Inpatient programs like this could be just right when a mental health issue and an addiction issue strike at the same time. Enrolling soon could be exactly what people need in order to get well.