How Is Co-Occurring Disorder Treated Differently?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number one governing principle for effective treatment is that everything about your child’s treatment plan, from the setting to the services provided, should match your son’s needs. In this regard, your son’s co-occurring disorder isn’t necessarily treated differently than someone with an addiction disorder that does not include a dual diagnosis condition. Rather, your son should be treated differently than any other boy in the world receiving treatment.

Suppose there are two boys entering treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. They are both suffering from an addiction to cocaine. They are both from homes where both parents work in professional jobs that demand much of their time. They both attend public high school and have starting positions on the soccer team. They both have girlfriends. They both suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. One might think that the same, or duplicate, treatment programs should apply to both boys; however, no matter how similar these two boys seem, they are still unique. They are individuals, with individual thought patterns, ideas, and experiences from which their anxiety has developed. Perhaps one of the boys is a star on his soccer team, but he is worried that if he makes even one mistake his coach will be terribly disappointed. The other boy may be comfortable on the soccer field, but is terribly worried that he may not pass his classes with high enough grades to keep playing. These are simplified examples, of course, but you can see how even the most mundane differences between two individuals can require different discussions and goals during the treatment process.

Types of Treatment Available for Co-Occurring Disorders

According to an article in the New York Times, cognitive behavioral therapies have proven effective for many disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression disorders
  • Personality disorders

Cognitive behavior therapies, according to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, is not one set of rules or procedures. Instead, it refers to a type of therapy practice that is based upon the concept that our behaviors are learned based upon our experiences. Therefore, behaviors can be changed as we learn new and better ways to see the world around us and interpret what the world means to us.

Remember the two soccer-playing boys? If the first boy might learn that his world will not come to an end (as he knows it) if he is unable to carry his teammates to a championship, he can then choose healthier behaviors as a result. The other boy might learn that his education is more important than his high school athletic career, or he may learn that studying more regularly to ensure good grades so that he can keep playing is better than avoiding his schoolwork by abusing drugs or alcohol.

During the cognitive behavioral therapy process, your child will set realistic goals with his therapist, strive to meet those goals in a comfortable, relaxed environment, and focus his attention on repairing his life with the help of trained professionals.

Drug addiction is a disease that affects the entire family, from younger siblings to parents. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, your son might also benefit from group therapy, social or peer support groups, and family therapy. At Muir Wood, we understand the complexities of treating adolescent boys suffering from co-occurring disorders and the importance of family involvement throughout the process. If your son may be suffering from addiction or a co-occurring disorder, please contact us to find out how we can help.

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