Women often notice that mental health plays a role in how they use drugs or alcohol. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems can lead to drinking or using in an attempt to feel better. Addiction can also be the driving force in declining mental health.
“Sometimes it is difficult to know what came first, the chicken or the egg,” says CARE (Co-occurring Addiction Recovery Essentials) for Women Program Director Janine Copeland, M.Ed., Provisional Psychologist, CCC, CCAC. “People will self-medicate for anxiety and depression using substances.”
Interpersonal and Relationship Problems
Separation between substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health issues is frequently unclear. Each contributes to the other. The additional pressures of interpersonal and relationship problems make life seem like it is spiraling out of control. The point when women recognize they need help and seek support is a significant first step toward recovery.
“Some women are coming to us already having an understanding of themselves and how they operate. They are aware that they have underlying mental health issues,” says Copeland. These women benefit from psychological testing that provides in-depth information about existing mental health conditions and a detailed treatment plan. In other cases psychological assessment sheds light on an unknown health issue. “A lot of women come to us and their normal is their normal. They haven’t been probed to question their normal. So someone who has had an anxiety disorder from the time they were a child might not recognize the symptoms.”
According to addiction and co-occurring disorders expert Dr. J.P. (John) Streukens, Ph.D., M.Ed., R.Psych., CRHSP, ICADC, ICCDPD, CCAC, RSAS, SAP, recovering from a substance use disorder that co-occurs with mental health challenges requires addressing both issues concurrently. A critical gap in gender-specific clinical outpatient care for women in Calgary led Dr. Streukens to design the CARE program. “Women coming into CARE are going to get an extremely informed education around alcohol and substance use disorders as well as around the accompanying psychological factors that play a role in addiction.”
Other key components to recovery and ongoing care include group therapy, participation in self-help groups such as the 12-step community, and building a support network with other women who have the same challenges. CARE Relapse Prevention was designed to bring women together on the path to recovery. “Trying to do this by yourself is next to impossible,” says Dr. Streukens. “It was critical to build a program where women could form their own recovery community and attach it to something that was common to them all which is their treatment experience.”
For more information see CARE for Women.