Dual diagnosis treatment centers are designed for those who are concurrently suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. But to determine whether you or someone you know could benefit from dual diagnosis treatment centers, you should first have a firm grasp on what the term dual diagnosis means.

Dual diagnosis is a co-occurring condition in which a person is simultaneously diagnosed with a severe mental illness and a substance use disorder. Integrated dual diagnosis treatment centers have been shown to work effectively for individuals with both disorders.


Drug abuse, including alcohol and prescription drugs can induce symptoms that resemble mental illness. This can make it difficult to distinguish between substance induced psychiatric syndromes and pre-existing mental health problems.

Dual diagnosis is more common than you might imagine.  According to a report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association thirty-seven percent of alcohol abusers and fifty-three percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Of all people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29 percent abuse either alcohol or drugs. Psychiatric problems that commonly occur in dual diagnosis – alongside alcohol or drug dependency – are depressive disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder; anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias; and other psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and personality disorders.

It can be very difficult to find appropriate treatment opportunities for those suffering from concurrent disorders. Most drug and alcohol rehab centers do not accept people with serious psychiatric conditions, and many psychiatric centers do not have expertise with substance abuse.

However, principles do exist for successful treatment of individuals with coexisting mental and substance-abuse disorders. Treatment of the two disorders should be integrated, not separate, and should be a collaborative decision-making process between the treatment team and the client. Recovery needs to be viewed as a marathon, not as a sprint, and methods and outcome goals should be explicit.

Individuals suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse must be allowed to improve at their own pace – it is hardly fair or reasonable to expect them to get well as quickly as someone battling just substance abuse. But this more-modest speed of recovery should in no way be a deterrent to entering treatment. Ignoring a dual disorder problem can have frightening, tragic results. Dual disorder individuals, when left untreated, have a greater propensity for violence, suicide, and homelessness.

DUAL DIAGNOSIS TREATMENT CENTERS: Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women

Well-designed dual diagnosis treatment centers for women encompass all of the aforementioned aspects of alcoholism and addiction and provides treatment for each of them. Safe Harbor Treatment Center, one of the nation’s premier dual diagnosis treatment centers for women, offers such a program. Safe Harbor’s curriculum treats alcoholism and addiction comprehensively, working through not only drug and alcohol problems, but also core psychological issues and any peripheral topics that are relevant for an individual client.

Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women and Safe Harbor’s Capella – a new, state-of-the-art facility specifically designed to help women with PTSD and trauma – are multifaceted treatment centers for women, utilizing a combination of structured therapeutic groups, individual therapy and counseling sessions, 12-step meetings, life skills development, and uplifting social activities to create a full and balanced treatment experience. Therapeutic groups cover topics like relapse prevention, body image, eating disorders and healthy relationships, as well as delving into more experiential therapeutic techniques like art therapy, hypnotherapy and psychodrama. Through these various avenues women who come to Safe Harbor jettison unhealthy old behaviors while simultaneously cultivating new ones.

Safe Harbor sets itself apart from other dual diagnosis treatment centers by its strong sense of community. Far from feeling like an institution, the residential location of Safe Harbor’s treatment center feels like a home, and the case managers and support staff like family. Many of the women who complete the 90-day treatment program choose to move into Safe Harbor’s sober living houses until they accomplish a year of sobriety, after which they often relocate permanently to the Orange County area. The result is a rich sisterhood of Safe Harbor women, always looking for an opportunity to reach out a hand to the newest member of the family.

Located in Orange County, California, Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women has the added benefit of the richest 12-step community in the world. Orange County, in particular the Newport-Costa Mesa area, holds more 12-step meetings of all varieties each week than any other neighborhood on the planet. Surrounded by this vibrant recovery community, and bathed in perpetual sunshine and ocean breezes, Safe Harbor is a haven where female addicts and alcoholics heal their wounds and rediscover themselves.


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