One thing that gets commonly asked about mental health treatment is how to know if you should seek treatment. Once you decide to enter treatment, many other questions may arise, such as what you do in treatment and what types of mental health treatment exist. Discover five key things to know about mental health treatment if you are looking for help with addiction recovery.
Find the right facility.
If you have decided to enter mental health treatment while also diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD), the type of therapist you want is going to be a co-occurring therapist or counselor at a facility that treats co-occurring disorders.
Co-occurring professionals understand the complexities of working with individuals with multiple mental health needs. A co-occurring therapist will be able to help guide you toward successful recovery from a SUD or AUD and through other mental health concerns. These professionals can help sort which concerns are related to the substance and which are related to mental health.
Often, people beginning treatment for SUD or AUD may have a list of symptoms that look like a mental health diagnosis but are appropriate symptoms to have when starting recovery. Some of these can even be biological because the brain chemistry has been affected by entering recovery and needs some time for mood stabilizing.
For example, if you just committed to stopping drinking or substance abuse in general, you may feel a sense of loss, especially if you were drinking or using for a significant length of time. This can present itself as grief or depression. This does not necessarily mean that you have a depressive disorder or similar mental health conditions.
Instead, you would be displaying appropriate feelings towards the loss of something that has been in your life for a long time. A co-occurring therapist will know the difference between mental health concerns and a symptom of AUD or SUD and how to work with you through your feelings.
Avoid common traps.
How many times have you wondered if you have a mental health disorder or have speculated that someone else has a mental health disorder? Every person on the planet has nuances, quirks, and eccentricities that make them individuals. Self-diagnosing is one of the biggest traps people can find themselves in. This is something any mental health service would tell you not to do.
There are many factors that a professional will consider when making a diagnosis. Behavior associated with a disorder does not necessarily qualify it for a diagnosis. A diagnosis is typically only made when those behaviors interfere with a positive quality of life, such as anxiety disorders that disrupt your ability to connect with others.
Trying to diagnose either yourself or someone else can be dangerous, as you are attaching a diagnosis to behavior that may or may not be an accurate match. There are also misunderstandings about what diagnoses even look like—bipolar disorder being one of the most common.
Many people operate under the assumption that if someone seems sad one day and hyperactive the next, they may have bipolar disorder. Without an expert mental health professional’s insight, this could be very inaccurate. The best chance you can give yourself or someone else to determine a mental health diagnosis and treatment options is to get a proper evaluation from a professional.
There is also a common misconception that when in treatment for mental illness, the professional you are working with is the only professional that you can see. This can become an issue if it seems like you and your therapist are not connecting as well as you had hoped, and you begin to wonder or have concerns about what treatment will look like moving forward.
Research shows time and again that one of the biggest predictors of positive treatment outcomes is the client-therapist relationship. It is imperative that you, as a client, feel that you have a good working relationship with your therapist as you work with family members, through symptoms of depression, and everything else.
There is nothing wrong with speaking to your therapist about options regarding a transfer to another professional if you feel it is in your best interest. Any professional will respect that and be open to the conversation.
Consider all factors.
While in treatment, your treatment provider will assess for biological or environmental factors that might be contributing to your mental health diagnosis. Biological components factored into a diagnosis usually reflect that certain neurotransmitters or brain chemistry might not be operating optimally.
Just as with diabetics who might not produce insulin properly, the brain may not be producing the correct chemicals needed to maintain a stable mental balance. When this is suspected, oftentimes, professionals will recommend a visit to a psychiatrist or primary care physician for possible testing, or to assess for medication needs or underlying health conditions.
Mental health treatment works by assessing and attending to any environmental stressors that may be identified. These stressors may include:
- Lack of appropriate friend or family support
- Unstable living environment
- Limited access to basic needs
- Transportation concerns
- No work, unable to work, or limited job opportunities
When needs such as these are not met, it can cause feelings of anxiety or depression which (while normal to feel under present circumstances) might require professional intervention to help you navigate them as challenges.
Know what treatment looks like.
Due to the multitude of concerns you may bring into treatment, the answer will vary depending on your specific treatment needs. People who may be suffering from mental illness or have a concern about a potential mental health disorder and a history of SUD or AUD will receive an initial comprehensive assessment to screen for an appropriate level of care.
This means a professional will first help you decide where the best place is for you to be before actual treatment begins. Once this is determined, the treatment can begin. This has traditionally been done face-to-face, but with the recent pandemic and advances in technology, there might be telehealth options available.
Generally, you will be assigned a therapist. You and the therapist will work together to create, achieve, and maintain treatment goals. This should be a collaborative process with you being the primary driver for treatment goals and the end goal being to address your mental health concerns and stability in recovery. Your therapist should be working with you to understand your needs and the work they need to do to help you achieve those goals or determine new ones.
Once treatment goals are understood, your therapist will decide which type of treatment would work best to help meet your goals. It could even include brain stimulation therapies, eye movement desensitization, or medication. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends many different types of psychotherapies as well.
Types of Psychotherapies
Your clinician will understand which psychotherapy is best for you. Some psychotherapies include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Person-Centered Therapy
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
While mental health treatment helps focus on the improvement of mental health problems, it is also important to not forget about attending to physical health needs while in treatment, as these two things often go hand in hand.
Various institutes, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, have emphasized the importance of being involved in health services when needed. There is also a lot of value in developing a regular exercise routine. Exercising regularly can help release feel-good chemicals in the brain, which is also linked to lowering the risk of depressive symptoms. There are several other mind-body connections treatment explores.
Invest in yourself outside of the program.
The amount of time you spend during the week in therapy will vary depending on your level of care. For instance, if you are in an inpatient setting, there will be multiple hours in treatment spent in both individual and group settings. If you are in an outpatient setting, you might spend as little as an hour once a week or once every other week in a treatment session. There is a large difference in the number of treatment hours depending on the level of care.
While in an inpatient setting, the facility will go through a great amount of time and care to make sure treatment needs are being met, as you would actually be living in the facility. In an outpatient setting, there is a lot more responsibility placed on you in terms of putting in work to help achieve goals outside of the treatment session.
For instance, if in an outpatient setting you are working on goals for how to deal with stress, you must use the coping skills taught during sessions in a real-life situation as it comes up. You should then share the results on how effective the strategy was with your provider, so they can understand what is working and what is not.
A therapist might also discuss the importance of getting involved in support groups. For those in recovery, this might manifest in the form of an AA, NA, or SMART Recovery group. There are also support groups offered through social media that might be beneficial — just be aware that the social media groups may be unregulated, so be mindful of the risks and speak to your therapist about it if there are questions.
Begin Your Recovery with The Haven
If you have decided to take the next step in your addiction recovery and mental health journey, The Haven offers comprehensive treatment and diagnosis services to help support a successful recovery. Contact us today for more information.