An Integrated Treatment Approach For Adolescents with Co-Occurring Mental Health (MH) and Substance Use Disorders (SUDs)
Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health (C&A) treats adolescents who are experiencing problems related to mental health and substance use. There are many substances teenagers experiment with or become addicted to; a few popular examples today are alcohol, vaping, marijuana, and numerous other drugs.
What is a Substance Use Disorder?
A substance use disorder (SUD) develops when the use of one or more substances leads to significant problems, emotional distress or failure to meet one’s responsibilities at home, school or in the community. It is not unusual that substance use may be related to stress, negative peer interactions or trauma; however, a variety of factors contribute to the use of substances. Studies show that almost half of the people diagnosed with a SUD are also diagnosed with an additional mental health disorder.
C&A‘s Integrated Treatment Approach
C&A utilizes an integrated treatment approach when addressing co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Integrated treatment is correlated with reduced substance use, fewer arrests, improved mental health, better daily functioning and an improved quality of life.
Treatment for SUD is determined based on the severity of the substance use, is customized to the needs of the person and is guided by an individualized treatment plan. According the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), treatment generally is offered in four levels of care: Outpatient, Intensive Outpatient, Residential, and Imminent Danger. C&A provides services for the first two levels of care: Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient.
What services does C&A provide?
Outpatient Services (Level 1) may include weekly individual therapy and may also include weekly, short term group therapy. Individual therapy is scheduled at the convenience of the individual typically for one hour a week. Outpatient services are designed to help the individual make changes in their substance use and/or addictive behavior. Treatment addresses lifestyle, attitudes and behaviors that may interfere with treatment goals.
Group therapy provides the opportunity to learn information and encourage interaction with and support from others. Outpatient groups meet weekly and cover topics such as: preparing to change, substance use facts, anger management, self-worth, family and other relationships, and healthy coping skills to name a few. Groups are one hour long and include a workbook that facilitates further thought and action.
Alternatives is one outpatient group offered by C&A. Alternatives is a drug and alcohol intervention service for adolescents with risky behavior or suspicions of drug or alcohol use or addiction. Early intervention services explore and address problems or risk factors and help the youth recognize the harmful consequences of high-risk substance use and/or addictive behavior.
Alternatives is indicated for youth who are caught with vape pens, drug paraphernalia, minor drugs or alcohol, who may be facing suspension or charges, or who exhibit behaviors indicative of substance use.
The Alternatives program is six weeks long. Each session is 60 minutes. Adolescents are given facts, tools and support and are taught strategies for taking personal responsibility and making positive, long-lasting behavioral changes.
Outpatient Services Criteria
- Persons with both mental health and substance use concerns
- Individuals mandated into treatment and not interested in recovery
- Individuals interested in making a change but may not have taken the necessary steps yet
- Persons in need of education about addiction or substance use
- People in recovery who require ongoing monitoring and relapse prevention
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP):
Intensive outpatient (IOP) is a Level 2 service of care and often includes similar treatment services as outpatient but with increased clinical contact. IOP generally provides structured programming for a minimum of six hours per week. Services typically include group and individual therapy, educational groups, medication management and family therapy. All services are based on a treatment plan developed with individualized goals. Participants are encouraged to apply newly learned skills to their present-day environments.
- A diagnosis for substance use and/or other addictive disorder
- The adolescent is not experiencing or at risk of acute withdrawal
- Biomedical conditions are stable or will not interfere with treatment
- At least one of the following occurs:
- Mild risk of dangerous behaviors to self or others
- Recovery efforts are affected by emotional, behavioral, or thinking problems in a negative way
- Mild or moderate difficulty managing daily living or responsibilities at home, school, or work
- The adolescent is likely to become unstable without frequent monitoring and accountability
- The adolescent verbalizes readiness to change but may have unrealistic expectations or does not demonstrate consistent behaviors
- The adolescent has not been successful at a lower level of care or is at risk of relapse
- There is a lack of positive social supports or supportive environment
The length of stay in IOP varies based on the issues being addressed and the adolescent’s response to treatment. Typically, IOP services take from four to eight weeks and then continue at the outpatient level for as long as needed.
Decisions group is an IOP service offered by C&A. The ideal candidate in this group is:
- An adolescent who has a substance use, abuse and/or dependency concern
- An adolescent who verbalizes readiness to change but may have unrealistic expectations or does not demonstrate consistent behaviors
- An adolescent who has not been successful in outpatient treatment or is at risk of relapse.
- An adolescent who is not in active withdrawal
- An adolescent with whom all medical concerns are stable
- An adolescent who lacks positive social supports or a supportive environment
- An adolescent for whom the one of following occurs – mild risk of dangerous behaviors to self or others; recovery efforts are affected by emotional, behavioral or thinking problems in a negative way; mild or moderate difficulty managing daily living or responsibilities at home, school or work; or is likely to become unstable without frequent monitoring and accountability
The program lasts for six to eight weeks. Time varies based on the issues being addressed and the adolescent’s response to treatment.
For youth needing higher levels of care, C&A will assist clients and families in identifying the right treatment program to meet their needs.
Karita Nussbaum Ph.D., LISW-S, LICDC
Gemini Program Manager