Santa Monica Therapist specializing in Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

santa monica therapist

Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ T.S. Elliot

Co-occurring disorders are also known as dual diagnoses. Co-occurring refers to when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse problem simultaneously. Either substance abuse or mental illness can develop first. It can truly feel challenging and isolating to deal with.

People with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. A person experiencing a mental health condition may turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication to improve the troubling mental health symptoms they experience. Research shows that drugs and alcohol are often abused and only make the symptoms of mental health conditions worse because they have an effect on a person’s moods, thoughts, brain chemistry, and behavior.

Signs and Symptoms

Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose because there are many combinations of disorders that can occur and the symptoms vary widely. It is important to look for symptoms of substance abuse as well as symptoms of any mental health disorder such as mood disorders, depression, and anxiety.

My Philosophy

It is my honor to accompany you on your journey in therapy.
To me, this isn't just a vocation but a deeply fulfilling and humbling opportunity to connect from a place of spirit. Once you become skilled at aligning your life with your spirit, you will feel energized, more open, and lighter almost immediately. In order for this shift to endure, you will need to continue to tap into your inner self and allow it to increasingly guide you in all that you do.

From this awareness comes the ability to transform. Together, we will deconstruct the thoughts and feelings that create your world and through creativity and humor uncover new, empowering life trajectories.

I will suggest ways for you to stay connected both through simple, daily rituals and through exploring deeper issues that lead to more authentic life choices. Remember, the goal is not to keep you in therapy forever, but
to help you spread your wings and fly.


Factors/Causes of Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

In many cases, people receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. This may occur because both mental and substance use disorders can have biological, psychological, and social components. Other reasons may be inadequate provider training or screening, an overlap of symptoms, or that other health issues need to be addressed first. In any case, the consequences of undiagnosed or untreated and undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death.

Treatment of Dual Diagnoses and Co-Occurring Disorders

The most common method of treatment for dual diagnosis today is integrated intervention (also known as supportive care), where a person receives care for both a specific mental illness and substance abuse. Referrals are often given to mental health providers; individuals are in treatment centers or adjunct services such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Because there are many ways in which a dual diagnosis may occur, treatment will not be the same for everyone. Some options include:

● Psychotherapy - Psychotherapy is almost always a large part of an effective dual diagnosis treatment plan. Education on a person’s illness and how their beliefs and behaviors influence their thoughts has been shown in countless studies to improve the symptoms of both mental illness and substance abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular is effective in helping people with dual diagnosis learn how to cope and to change ineffective patterns of thinking.

● Medications - Medication is a useful tool for treating a variety of mental illnesses. Depending on the mental health symptoms a person is experiencing, different mental health medications may play an important role one’s recovery. Certain medications are also helpful for people experiencing substance abuse. These medications are used to help ease withdrawal symptoms or promote recovery. Medications to ease withdrawal are used during the detoxification process. They produce similar effects in the body as certain addictive drugs.

● Detoxification - The first major hurdle that people with dual diagnosis will have to pass is detoxification. During inpatient detoxification, a person is monitored 24/7 by a trained medical staff for up to 7 days. The staff may administer tapering amounts of the substance or its medical alternative in order to wean a person off and lessen the effects of withdrawal.

● Inpatient detoxification is generally more effective than outpatient for initial sobriety. This is because inpatient treatment provides a consistent environment and removes the person battling addiction from exposure to people and places associated with using.

● Inpatient Rehabilitation - A person experiencing a serious mental illness and dangerous or dependent patterns of abuse may benefit most from an inpatient rehabilitation center where she can receive concentrated medical and mental health care 24/7. These treatment centers provide her with therapy, support, medication and health services with the goal of treating her addiction and its underlying causes. Supportive housing, like group homes or sober houses, is another type of residential treatment center that is most helpful for people who are newly sober or trying to avoid relapse. These treatment centers allow for more freedom while still providing round-the-clock care.

Remedies for Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

● Self-Help - Self-care - Get enough rest/sleep, eat healthy, and try to be physically active/exercise every day. Avoid substances even caffeine, as it can make mental health issues worse.
● Support Groups - Support groups allow members to share frustrations, successes, referrals for specialists, where to find the best community resources and tips on what works best when trying to recover. They also form friendships and provide encouragement to stay clean. Double Trouble in Recovery is a 12-step fellowship for people managing Recovery is a sobriety support group program for people with a variety of addictions.

Feel free to email me at to ask me any questions or call me now at: 310-625-0572.
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Brooke Sprowl, LCSW | Santa Monica Therapist
401 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90401 US
Phone: 3108965568 Website: