Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders combine mental health problems with alcohol or substance abuse, the latter often used to self-medicate the former. Yet, in doing so, the individual actually preserves both.  A dual-focused approach is necessary in the treatment of co-occurring disorders.  Neglecting one, while treating the other, often worsens a person’s condition.Co-occurring Disorders  The most common form of mental health problems that occur with substance abuse include depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorders.

According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Roughly 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse.
  • 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.
  • Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Treating Co-occurring Disorders

Denial is very common among those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues.  There must be a willingness on the part of the patient to address the addiction, either through harm reduction or abstinence.   This is usually the tougher part of the work and takes both commitment and support.  When peers are employed, such as in a twelve-step program, the prospects for improvement in both areas are enhanced.  Individual and group therapy can be more effective if the addiction is faced with a commitment to control or eliminate it.

As mentioned above, it is very important that co-occurring disorders are treated using an integrated approach where both the substance abuse and the mental health issue are treated together by the same professional or team of professionals. Getting to the root of the disorders and the resultant turmoil will lead to proper treatment for both disorders.

What to Expect During Therapy

Recovering from co-occurring disorders takes time, commitment, and courage. There is no “one-size fits all” approach to therapy, but people with substance abuse and mental health problems can and do get better. Our approach at Turco Psychotherapy is to make sure that you:

  • share in the decision-making process and are actively involved in setting goals and developing strategies for change.
  • receive basic education about your disorder and related problems.
  • are taught healthy coping skills and strategies to minimize substance abuse, cope with upset, and strengthen your relationships.


Courage is a willingness to examine and engage our own discomfort until clarity finds us.

~ Peter C. Turco