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The research on recovery approaches to co-occurring disorders of mental health and substance use strongly affirm the need to assess and treat these disorders in an integrated way. According to the research, individuals who have experienced traumatic stress are more vulnerable to developing an addiction.

Use the readings and multimedia in this module to support your responses.

  • How do you understand the interconnection and complex nature of co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders?
  • What are the challenges and barriers for social work settings to address the needs of individuals with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders?
  • What philosophical/theoretical, policy and/or organizational factors contribute to treatment approaches that address mental health and substance use disorders separately?
  • What are some of the treatment approaches for co-occurring disorders that have proven to be effective?

400 Words APA format.


Wormer, K. & Davis, D. (2018). Addiction treatment: a strengths perspective. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. ISBN-13: 978-1305943308

Sheff, D. (2013). Clean: overcoming addiction and ending America’s greatest tragedy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 978-0547848655

Accessible PDF

In Week 6, we will examine the interactions between substance use and mental health disorders, assessment, diagnosis and treatment considerations for individuals with co-occurring disorders. We will also explore the importance of relapse prevention and approaches in working with clients to sustain their recovery.

People with mental health disorders are more likely than people without mental health disorders to experience an alcohol or substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders can be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of symptoms. 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, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death (SAMHSA website).

People with co-occurring disorders are best served through integrated treatment. With integrated treatment, practitioners can address mental and substance use disorders at the same time, often lowering costs and creating better outcomes. Increasing awareness and building capacity in service systems are important in helping identify and treat co-occurring disorders. Early detection and treatment can improve treatment outcomes and the quality of life for those who need these services (SAMHSA website).


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