Co-occurring Disorders

Image credit: Rawpixel.com - Freepik.comA message from Liberation Programs’ Chief Operating Officer, Cary Ostrow

At community forums, a popular topic of conversation is how to help individuals with “co-occurring disorders.” Broadly defined, a co-occurring disorder is when someone has a psychiatric diagnosis, such as depression, and also a substance misuse disorder. The National Institute of Health estimates that more than 8 million Americans are afflicted with both of these difficult diseases at the same time. The conversation inevitably and understandably ends up at a key issue – does an individual misuse a substance to help alleviate the symptoms of the psychiatric issue or is the psychiatric issue caused or made worse by the substance misuse? The answer, quite simply, is “yes.”

It is of no surprise to anyone reading this that our healthcare system is fragmented. Whether it’s intentional or by accident, we end up trying to fix problems one at a time instead of looking at the whole person. Behavioral health has a long history of doing this as well. As professional in the field, we separated treatment for alcohol issues from misuse of “other drugs” and we developed separate treatment facilities for psychiatric issues. Not surprisingly, the outcomes were not what we hoped they would be.

Liberation Programs, like many behavioral health organizations across the country, discovered years ago that treating issues in a silo makes for bad medicine. Whether someone drinks to excess, uses cocaine, takes too many pain pills, can’t find the energy or motivation to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t function at their job due to overwhelming feelings of anxiety, they share common links: emotional pain and a poor quality of life. That’s not to say that one type of treatment works for everyone. Liberation employs an array of different service providers in its system of care to offer specialized, targeted help. Whether it’s a psychiatrist, social worker, family therapist, professional counselor, certified addiction counselor, recovery coach or advanced practice nurse, the techniques are different – but the goal is always the same: ensure that people get what they need to feel better.

Feeling better is the cornerstone of what Liberation offers. In a world that often asks the people who come to us for help to be “perfect,” “better” is an undervalued commodity. But it should be celebrated. I have a friend who participates in a local weight loss program. They celebrate every 10 lbs. lost. My friend has lost 30 of the 80 lbs. he needs to live a healthier, happier life. Does he have bad weeks? Sure. Do some of the pounds take longer to lose than others? Of course. But absolutely no one minimizes his accomplishments. Everyone encourages him to complete his goals and the entire helping team – no matter what the specific focus of their help is – works together to gently nudge him toward his ultimate goal. Sounds like a good model, doesn’t it?

Best regards,

Cary