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The Continuum of Care in Dual Diagnosis Treatment


A common misconception about substance use disorders and mental illness is that detox and treatment are the only things required to achieve long term sobriety. However, treating co-occurring disorders is often more complex. Instead, it requires a continuum of care that guides and monitors clients over an extended period of time to ensure continuous progress in their recovery. 

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for addiction or mental health. It requires a change in lifestyle, habits, coping skills, and relationships. By accomplishing these things and remaining vigilant about treating addiction and mental health, a full, productive life after addiction can be sustained. 

What is the Continuum of Care?

The words “continuum of care” are frequently spoken of at dual diagnosis treatment centers, but what exactly does this mean? A continuum of care includes having and following a detailed plan regarding what aftercare services an individual needs after completing their course of treatment. While using this technique, individuals are monitored and guided over an extended period of time while they make their way through different levels of care. 

An important aspect of the continuum of care for dual diagnosis treatment is individualized care. Each person who suffers from addiction and mental illness is different, therefore, each person requires a unique treatment plan that is tailored to address his or her own specific needs. Depending on the specific needs of a client, some steps that are typically involved in a continuum of care include: 

The intensity of support gradually decreases over time as clients progress in their recovery. When they begin practicing healthy coping skills and become more solid in their sobriety, they begin to move down from a higher level of care to a lower one. 

Why is a Continuum of Care so Important?

The habits that result from addiction can be difficult to break. Since there is no quick fix for addiction or mental health, symptoms need to be treated on a long term basis in order for individuals to stay healthy and sober. 

The jump from inpatient rehab to outpatient rehab can be intimidating. After all, individuals may get acclimated to the structure they have while in inpatient care. In addition, leaving treatment can expose people back into a world that is full of emotional triggers. However, when a continuum of care is set in place, it can help ease the transition to independent living. When participating in IOP, clients will still spend considerable amounts of time receiving treatment and support. They will be able to discuss their triggers, emotions, and struggles with therapists and their peers. Not only does this reinforce healthy coping skills, but it can help individuals manage cravings, cope with triggers, find ways to deal with stress, and learn how to communicate in healthy ways while they adjust back to independence. 

When clients find a job, become confident in their ability to live outside of treatment, and are effectively using their coping skills, they are moved down to an outpatient level of care. During this stage, they will only participate in therapy during scheduled hours. This allows for more independence while still being able to access care and support from their treatment center. 

Many people in recovery find it beneficial to live in a sober living home when they leave treatment. This provides them with an opportunity to live with other sober individuals who have the same goals that they do. Living with other sober people can help provide a roadmap to recovery, allowing individuals to foster healthy relationships and have ongoing emotional support. 

Studies have found that aftercare support through a continuum of care over a 6 month period of time has resulted in significantly lower levels of risky behaviors, drug use, and criminal activity.[1] Dual diagnosis treatment programs in South Florida that approach treatment using a continuum of care often experience lower relapse rates and a higher percentage of people who complete their treatment program. 

What are the Goals of the Continuum of Care?

While every individual is unique and may have different goals that they want to accomplish during treatment, the goals of a continuum of care are universal. These include:[2]

  • Help individuals achieve long term sobriety
  • Arm people with behavioral changes that support a healthy lifestyle
  • Facilitate participation in community support groups such as 12-step programs
  • Assist patients in addressing and treating their mental health
  • Help clients develop a support network
  • Improve problem-solving skills and coping strategies

The Continuum of Care at Agape Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale

At Agape Treatment Center, our experienced addiction specialists in Fort Lauderdale understand the importance of the continuum of care when treating patients with co-occurring disorders, Our individualized methods of treating dual diagnosis patients not only focuses on bridging the gap between addiction and mental health but also implements healthy behavioral mechanisms to reduce the chances of relapse after treatment. 

Recovery is a process, so it doesn’t happen over a short period of time. By phasing clients down the ladder of treatment levels, individuals slowly gain back more independence as they develop a stronger foundation in their recovery and demonstrate healthy ways to cope with symptoms of mental illness. Without ongoing support through the continuum of care, the possibility of relapse increases. 

To learn more about treating co-occurring disorders through dual diagnosis care in Fort Lauderdale, contact our addiction specialists at Agape Treatment Center today. 



Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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