When mental illness and addiction collide: Adolescent treatments for comorbidity

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When mental illness and addiction collide: Adolescent treatments for comorbidity

Comorbid mental illness and drug addiction can be especially difficult for adolescents and require specialized treatments to combat. Teens are still developing physically, mentally and socially, so great care must be taken to put them on the right path toward sobriety and mental health. Doctors have a variety of tailored treatments at their disposal that serve the unique needs of adolescents with comorbid conditions. A few of the most effective therapies include the following:

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST is a therapy designed to help troubled adolescents deal with all of the environmental factors that influence their lives for better or worse. The therapy addresses patients’ family members, friends, school teachers, community and other environmental factors. Teens interact with each of these systems on an almost daily basis, and each one plays a role in shaping their behavior (MST Services). By helping teens tune out negative influences, like peer pressure, and become more open to positive guidance, patients can steer themselves onto the path of recovery. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17, typically with histories of criminality, are the most common recipients of the therapy. Comorbid conditions of mental health disorder and substance abuse are common issues experienced by juvenile delinquents.

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

BSFT helps teens resist various behavioral and mental health problems by focusing on the home dynamic. Family interaction can encourage or intensity a pre-existing mental health disorder or substance abuse problem. Therapists will initially observe the way that the family behaves with each other and identify patterns of harmful or dysfunctional interaction. Therapists then make suggestions on how to improve in order to provide a healthier environment for the patient (National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices). When comorbid teens enjoy a more nurturing and adaptive family base, it can provide the stability they need to achieve a real and lasting recovery from their comorbid conditions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT therapy teaches patients to change the way that they think in order to change their behavior for the better. The treatment provides coping skills that help patients avoid relapses and take the necessary steps to remain in recovery. Through therapy, patients learn to anticipate and avoid risk factors that are likely to make them relapse. They also learn to develop strategies to cope with drug cravings and other symptoms of their comorbid conditions. After the treatment, patients continue to implement and refine their coping skills to stay on the correct path (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Clinicians may use any or all of these therapies in conjunction with each other or in addition to medication. If you are or know a teen who may be in need of treatment for comorbid conditions, the Arizona Drug Addiction Helpline can help select the best treatment options for you. Call us at any time to speak to a qualified addiction specialist.

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