Approaching a Patient About the Connection Between Mental Health and Substance Abuse

There are a number of reasons why someone would seek the aid of a therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or any other professional in the mental health and addiction recovery fields. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the patient themselves knows everything about their own situation. Oftentimes, patients may group many of these professionals and kinds of facilities together and simply reach out when they feel an overwhelming need of help.

From addiction recovery to mental health, there are any number of connecting elements that can make them difficult to differentiate from each other. For some people, they will turn to alcohol or drugs in order to placate the extreme feelings of stress, anxiety, panic, or depression that they may experience as an effect of a mental health disorder.

For others, their use and dependency on a particular substance, or relationship to a particular coping mechanism, may cause anxiety or depression as a byproduct. As a result, it may be necessary to direct each person to the correct kind of treatment that may be best for them. But this conversation can be extraordinarily difficult.

Lead With the Connections

Not all patients are aware of the connections between addiction and mental health. If it is suggested to a patient that they attend a different kind of therapy, especially when it comes to addiction recovery, it can seem almost akin to an attack. People can think that they have wasted their time doing the wrong kind of therapy. For example, someone may think that they are suffering from anxiety and want to address coping mechanisms, but in the process, they may not realize exactly how often they are drinking while trying to develop these techniques.

In practice, the skills that someone uses to address their anxiety or depression are still very important on a daily basis, and reinforcing this aspect can help someone understand the reason why they may be recommended to attend an addiction recovery program. It is always connected and their experience in an addiction recovery program can help them with their anxieties.

Use Evidence

As a professional, there is only so much information that someone has available to them. Oftentimes, the information that someone has is relegated to the patients’ willingness to divulge it. However, when someone is going over their experiences with mental health, they may not realize exactly how many times they go to the bar in order to deal with stress from their anxiety or work. Take note of how many times these kinds of coping mechanisms come up when discussing their mental health recovery.

Likewise, only use the information that someone has volunteered as a part of the decision to recommend other forms of treatment. Assuming that someone is using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism without a concrete reason to bring it up can quickly deteriorate trust between the professional and patient. Using evidence is less about telling someone that they may have a problem and more about showing them the various ways that a certain practice or usage occurs in their own words, in their own stories.

Make It Personal

Showing someone that there may be an underlying problem with addiction can come as a shock to many. However, it doesn’t mean that someone has to change their overall goals when it comes to mental health recovery. In fact, the two different facets of recovery will often overlap. When discussing the potential need for additional treatment, keep conversations personal.

Openly discuss how they feel about this new, introspective exploration and keep their own goals in mind when deciding on how to tackle a particular part of their recovery. Addiction recovery can still be used as a stepping stone to someone overcoming their mental health disorders as well, and explaining how the two intertwine and how both treatments move towards the same goal can help someone be more open to the potential treatments that they may need.

Transparency in Change

This conversation will spark any number of questions and cause someone to reflect on their own actions, opening a very vulnerable dialogue depending on the individual patient. Staying transparent about the different kinds of addiction recovery available and what they can expect can help each person make the best decision for themselves. Approaching the topic with genuine care and transparency can help them consider everything that has been said and act in a more objective manner. Let them know that there will be difficulties in the transition, but also explain how those difficulties fit into their already established recovery path.

Not all addictions are the same. Deconstructing the idea of addiction and what it looks like can help someone see for themselves the relationship they have with alcohol, drugs, or any other potential addictions. While someone may not drink every day, they may still use it every time that they begin to experience their anxiety flare up. Even if someone decides not to pursue a dedicated substance abuse program, they may simply gain more information on how their mental health has impacted other parts of their lives, carry a more introspective mindset about their relationship with a particular substance, and leave them more open to addressing these complicated topics and concerns going forward.

The connections between mental health and addiction are complicated and deep. At Alta Centers, the comfort provided during their detox or residential treatment allows each individual to explore their own relationship with addiction and mental health in a safe and carefully curated environment. For more information on how Alta Centers can serve you and your particular needs, or for more information about the complicated relationship between mental health and addiction, contact one of the caring professionals at Alta Centers today by calling (888) 202-2583.

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