There is an undeniable link between mental health and addiction. When treating an addiction with counseling and therapy, mental and emotional health can also be greatly improved. Explore exactly how addiction counseling can impact and improve the mental health of patients.

Counseling Identifies Mental Health Conditions and Diagnoses

Young woman with hands to mouth concerned about the state of her mental health.

One of the most valuable aspects of addiction counseling is that it can help patients come to terms with any mental health diagnoses. This can be jarring and unsettling for some patients, particularly if the concept is new to them. Through counseling, these conditions can be explained, understood and treated in an appropriate way.

It is hard to pinpoint whether addiction causes mental illness, or if the reverse is true. However, the connection is undeniable. When patients are admitted to an addiction treatment center, as many as 40 percent may also be treated for a diagnosis such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or anxiety, among many other conditions.

Coming to terms with a new diagnosis is not easy. This is especially true for patients in addiction recovery programs, who are already dealing with a lot of change. In addiction counseling, patients can explore what their diagnosis means and how it makes them feel.

Trained addiction counselors have an educated take on these diagnoses. They will encourage patients to seek treatment for any health conditions, mental or physical. In addition, they can eliminate any guilt or shame associated with these conditions.

Often, patients are unfamiliar with conditions like bipolar disorder or depression. They may have an outdated views of these diagnoses, which can also be dangerous. Through counseling, patients will be able to truly understand both the diagnosis and how it impacts daily life.

Furthermore, patients in addiction counseling can have treatments explained to them in new ways. Some individuals, for example, believe that getting sober will eliminate any mental health conditions. Trained therapists and counselors can explain why ongoing treatment is so important, regardless of sobriety.

Addiction Counseling Emphasizes That Patients Aren’t Alone

A key issue for patients in addiction treatment and recovery is loneliness. Patients may feel isolated, even when around loving friends and family. This is normal, but addiction counseling can help. By understanding that the loneliness isn’t forever, patients will be better equipped to make strides that can improve mental illness and overall quality of life.

Some patients in treatment feel that they are victims. They may feel that others are out to get them, or they might feel that they have terrible luck. It is important not to promote a view of one against the world. Through counseling, patients will learn that they are not victims and that they have control over their decisions moving forward.

In addiction counseling, there is the obvious fact that patients simply aren’t alone. In treatment, there is at least one other person in the vicinity who wants to help.

The relationship between addiction counselor and patient can be very strong. While it is important to set boundaries, this can be a key way to show patients how to socialize, show respect and communicate. By accepting that one person, a therapist, wants to help, patients can start to accept others in a similar way.

Addiction counselors can also encourage and support other beneficial relationships. Patients might ask for advice about meeting friends with similar interests. Role play and conversation starters can all be a great way to boost confidence and practice communicating. Healthy relationships, after all, are critical to mental health.

While addiction counseling can be one-on-one, it can also be a group session. This, of course, emphasizes that patients are not the only ones going through this situation. Being surrounded by peers can help patients in countless ways. It is one very effective way to help those diagnosed with mental illness reintegrate into social environments.

Counseling Can Identify Triggers

Triggers are events, conditions or situations that cause problems and sometimes cravings for patients in addiction treatment. Triggers can lead to relapse, or they can worsen mental illness. A key part of addiction counseling is learning to identify these very personal triggers and then use healthy coping mechanisms to combat them.

The most basic triggers, and those that are problematic across the board, are known as HALT. This stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. A lack of self care can cause any of those triggers to pop up.

Unfortunately, HALT can lead to a worsening of mental health symptoms. When a person is tired, for example, they may be more prone to paranoia. When a person is lonely, they can experience more severe depression. That’s why learning to identify and treat HALT quickly is an integral part of addiction counseling.

HALT can be addressed in many unique ways. Small actions like packing snacks and going to bed at the same time each night are a good place to start. Beyond that, addiction counselors can encourage patients to attend group meetings to make friends or find a new commute that doesn’t elicit as much anger and road rage.

Counseling will place on emphasis on creating coping mechanisms to target mental illness and addiction triggers. These are unique for every individual patient, and it may take some time to create effective coping mechanisms.

Some coping mechanisms might include contacting a therapist if symptoms worsen. Or, if depression takes hold, immediately finding a 12 Step or AA meeting locally could be of help. Coping mechanisms could be as simple as taking a walk outside or as complicated as a multiple-step checklist to remind patients of their own strength during recovery.

Behavioral Therapy Seeks to Reverse Destructive Patterns

There are many different types of therapy that can be effective in treating both addiction and mental health. Just some of the options include the following:

  • Family program
  • Group therapy
  • Exercise and fitness therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

While each of these options can be helpful, arguably the most effective for a dual diagnosis mental health disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is to recognize automatic and negative thought patterns. Clearly, this is something that can make a difference for addicts as well as for people struggling with conditions like anxiety, suicide, and depression.

Take, for example, a female patient recovering from a prescription drug addiction who is also diagnosed with depression. She invites a friend for coffee but gets no reply. The immediate thought process might be, “I am a failure, and no one likes me. I should stop trying, and turn back to the crutch of drugs.”

CBT aims to identify and recognize this automatic internal response. Instead of assuming the worst, consider that the person was at work and couldn’t text back. Rather than saying no one likes me, think of supportive friends and family. Instead of relapsing, think of the incredible work it took to get sober.

Over time, patients will begin to spot this automatic negative thinking. When this happens, patients can target these negative thoughts and use techniques to stop or reserve them. This can have dramatically positive effects. Patients may make strides in the treatment of certain mental health conditions, and they can also fight back against relapse.

Addiction Counseling Can Help Patients Stick to Pharmacological Treatment for Mental Illness

In many cases, patients with mental health conditions require more than just therapy and counseling. Often, pharmacological treatment is also necessary. For a number of reasons, however, that may be difficult to administer or enforce. Thankfully, addiction counseling can help.

Certain patients who are serious about their addiction recovery may not want to take any medications for fear of a new addiction. This is a valid concern, but some individuals simply can’t function without prescription medications. Furthermore, not all prescription medications are actually addictive, even to those predisposed to addiction.

Counselors with experience treating patients struggling with addiction will be able to explain this information clearly. They can get to the root of why patients are worried about taking medicine. Often, a fear of relapse is the problem. Pharmacological treatment can be scrutinized to ensure that it won’t hamper sobriety in any way.

Other patients mistakenly believe that addiction was the source of mental illness. They may believe that sobriety also brings a clean slate. While this can occasionally be true, mental health conditions exist beyond the scope of addiction.

Healing Springs Ranch Will Get to the Bottom of Any Mental Health Issues

Mental health recovery is as important as addiction recovery at Healing Springs Ranch. Our exhaustive intake assessment will find what makes you tick, what motivates you and what mental health issues may be standing in the way of your sobriety and recovery. There are many ways to access your inner self and we can find a way and then plan individualized treatment for your specific addiction. Don’t delay getting help.

Every patient is different, and every patient deserves a personal, custom approach to recovery. Often, that means addiction counseling that emphasizes mental health. At Healing Springs Ranch, comprehensive health is always a priority. Call 866-656-8384 to learn more about recovering from addiction today.