Washington Rehab Centers and Addiction Resources
Based in Seattle, AllTreatment Washington's mission is to become the most comprehensive resource for substance abuse treatment and mental health services within the Washington state community. Our goal is to face issues such as addiction and homelessness through education and advocacy, and to help as many struggling people as possible. Do you have knowledge or experience that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dual diagnosis refers to the complex relationship between psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. A wide variety of theories have attempted to explain this interplay, but there is little doubt that the two are inextricably linked. With comorbid problems feeding each other in a vicious cycle, self-medicating through substances can be a difficult habit to overcome. Mental health professionals from Washington state share their perspectives on dual diagnosis, a struggle that affects millions of Americans on their road to recovery.
What is dual diagnosis?
“Substance abuse is similar to any other dysfunction: it’s our attempt to adapt to life's stressors."
You don’t have to be an addiction specialist to be frequented by the all-too-common conjunction of emotional distress and substance abuse that is dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder (COD), a comorbidity that afflicts an estimated 4 million people in the U.S. Therapists and counselors across Washington come across its many forms and severities more often than you’d think, but with new medical research exploring the intricacies of dual diagnosis, the prospects of recovery are brightening.
“Substance abuse is similar to any other dysfunction: it’s our attempt to adapt to life's stressors,” says Seattle counselor Reid Stell. “It’s ironically our way of trying to balance. We become addicted to our mood swings as a way to distract us from what's really going on — and that distraction allows us to function as well as we do. When our dysfunction is no longer working for us, we are faced with the choice to create life balance the hard way.”
Despite developing understandings of dual diagnosis, some debate has sparked among researchers over its root — a “chicken or the egg” dilemma that has many speculating how these two issues influence each other. Whether it was a mental illness that caused substance abuse or the other way around, medical professionals largely agree that they must be treated in synchrony.
“For 25 years, I have been working to help the mental health and addiction treatment providers to understand that even if they think they can separate the issues, they cannot,” says Jeanne Meyer, a counselor in Vancouver, WA. “Every mental health counselor has worked with someone with a substance abuse problem. Every substance abuse counselor has worked with someone with a mental health disorder.”
Why is this relationship so strong?
We asked mental health counselors across Washington why addiction and psychological pain go hand-in-hand and discovered there are multiple answers to this question — none of which are simple. While some professionals acknowledge a genetic influence, most conceptualize COD as a coping or avoidance mechanism, or “self-medication” for existing anguish.
“We are whole people, not broken into segregated pieces. That’s why when one part of us is in pain, it affects the rest of our lives."
“A common response to pain is to turn to drugs and alcohol,” explains Seattle psychotherapist Treina Aronson. “This makes sense because, quite simply, they do a good job in anesthetizing emotions in the moment. Unfortunately, in the long term, this method only continues the cycle of suffering due to the untold havoc and profound remorse which results from using this coping strategy.”
Bellingham counselor Claire Mannino adds, “[Addictive behaviors and substances] help us cope, they stop us from having to process things that are unimaginable, they satiate our need for something that we cannot or do not know how to satiate in a healthy and adaptive way. For relatively mentally healthy people who happen to stumble upon an addictive substance or behavior, perhaps through a friend, loved one or chance meeting, their mental health often suffers as their addiction progresses.”
“We are whole people, not broken into segregated pieces,” Candice Czubernat of Seattle tells us. “That’s why when one part of us is in pain, it affects the rest of our lives. I believe someone uses substances for very good reasons. Generally these reasons stem from places of pain, loss, disappointment, low self-esteem and trauma just to name a few. To be free from the need of addiction we must take the step towards healing those hurts.”
How do you treat dual diagnosis?
Medical professionals have attempted for years to explain why at least 60% of people with mental illness also struggle with substance abuse, resulting in a range of theories.**WEBMD1. Dual treatment approaches involving simultaneous attention to mental illness and substance abuse are becoming widely accepted, but tend to vary among individual coaches.
“We know that not all treatment strategies work for all people in all circumstances,” says Tom Linde in Seattle. “Sometimes we can get a good idea of what is going to work, but often we have to experience some failed efforts in order to dispose of what won't work before we're able to settle on what will work.”
Jennifer Kennett of Bellevue integrates these holistic approaches in her own practice, claiming, “I have never met an individual with addiction issues who is not in significant emotional pain. It is not possible to treat the addiction without considering where the pain is coming from. I explore when and how the addiction crept into their life, and what promises addiction has made and broken.”
Even with a prevalent awareness of dual diagnosis, resources for holistic recovery are still underdeveloped in many areas of the state. Judy Canter explains some of the difficulties found in Vancouver, where she practices: “There are very poor resources in this area for older adults seeking treatment as the programs here that accept lower income individuals (Medicare) are not geared toward this population.”
There is still much work to be done both in understanding the dynamics of co-occurring disorders and implementing effective and accessible treatment. But even therapists without addiction specialization are recognizing the value of understanding them, as many of their patients are struggling to throw the weight of two yokes off their shoulders.
“Doctors say they are increasingly seeing patients from all walks of life who suffer from a combination of substance abuse and mental health problems.”
Dual Diagnosis Facts
- “It is now generally agreed that as much as 50 percent of the mentally ill population also has a substance abuse problem. The drug most commonly used is alcohol, followed by marijuana and cocaine. “
- “People with mental illnesses suffer from what has been called "downward drift." This means that as a consequence of their illness they may find themselves living in marginal neighborhoods where drug use prevails. Having great difficulty developing social relationships, some people find themselves more easily accepted by groups whose social activity is based on drug use.”
Treatment: “What are needed are "hybrid" programs that address both illnesses together.”
- “Desirable programs for this population should take a more gradual approach.”
- “Clients with a dual diagnosis have to proceed at their own pace in treatment.”
- “Mental health services are often not well prepared to deal with patients having both afflictions. Often only one of the two problems is identified. If both are recognized, the individual may bounce back and forth between services for mental illness and those for substance abuse, or they may be refused treatment by each of them.”
- “Doctors say they are increasingly seeing patients from all walks of life who suffer from a combination of substance abuse and mental health problems. Experts estimate that at least 60% of people battling one of these conditions are battling both.”
- “Mental health problems are common in the U.S. An estimated 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”
- "What we have found is that people with bipolar disorder, particularly women, have an enormously high rate of alcoholism — up to seven times that of the general population," says Mark Frye, MD, director of the UCLA Bipolar Disorder Research Program in Los Angeles.
- “Whether the mental health problem — or the drug use — came first, doctors say that good mental health can't prevail until both problems are treated. The best way to accomplish this, however, remains a matter of some debate.”
- “Many doctors are now turning to a dual treatment approach — a program that integrates detoxification of addictive substances with simultaneous identification and treatment of any coexisting mental health problems.”
- Psychology Today, Therapists - Finding a mental health professional specialized in substance abuse could be your first step toward a sober life.
- Washington State Recovery Helpline - Are you in need of emergency support? This Washington state crisis helpline is standing by 24 hours a day to see you through your most difficult struggles.
- Washington State's DSHS Mental Health Site - Explore affordable mental health treatment options through Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
- National Alliance on Mental Illness, Washington Division - Discover how new science is rekindling hope for those suffering from mental illness and addiction.
- Washington State Human Resources Page - For many suffering from mental illness and addiction, even the basic necessities of life can seem out of reach. Washington State Human Resources can help you.
- Washington State's DSHS - Get individual and family support through Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services.
- WIN211 - Browse Washington community resources, including basic needs, medical services, financial assistance, and employment on Washington State 2-1-1.