Why the pairing of mental health and substance abuse?

There are two rationales.

• Many of the treatment modalities that are effective in treating mental health issues are also effective in treating substance abuse issues.

• There is a great deal of overlap between mental health issues and substance abuse issues. Either one can precipitate the other. Some people drink or use drugs as a means of coping with mental health issues. On the other hand, abuse of drugs and/or alcohol can cause some individuals to develop mental health issues that they did not have before.

As a case in point, “Ron” (not his true name) was severely agoraphobic but felt that admitting to an emotional problem would be tantamount to displaying weakness. He found that if he had a few drinks he could more easily cope with being away from the “comfort zone” of home. So he laced his morning coffee with brandy, kept a bottle of vodka in his desk drawer at work as “emergency medicine,” and had a drink or two—or three—with lunch every day. He did not even admit his agoraphobia to his wife, but she became aware of his drinking and believed him to be an alcoholic. Only when his employer threatened to dismiss him and his wife simultaneously threatened to leave him did Ron agree to seek treatment. In his initial interview, he came clean about his agoraphobic situation, and only then did it become clear that the true root of his problem was agoraphobia rather than purely issues with alcohol. He was using the alcohol as a coping mechanism, a crutch.

Evidence-Based Practices are state-of-the-art techniques whose effectiveness has been verified by such organizations as the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. An individual working with expert professionals and following a course of treatment dictated by Evidence-Based Practices can have a very realistic expectation of making excellent progress toward recovery from his or her issues, be they with mental health, substance abuse, or both.

Although Evidence-Based Practices is a comparatively recent term, the practices themselves have been proven efficacious over time. In fact, that is exactly what the term “evidence-based” means: Proven by evidence to be effective.  Evidence-Based Practices combine research-based information, clinical expertise, and the individual client’s own needs as the client and his or her therapy team work toward restoring the client to good mental health and a complete recovery from any substance abuse issues.

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