Returning to the ASWB exam content outline, let's look at co-occurring disorders and conditions. Lets get some facts down and then look at how the topic may appear on the social work licensing exam.
First, a definition: Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity, refer to the presence of two or more disorders or conditions in an individual at the same time. The term is most commonly used when referring to the coexistence of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, alongside substance use disorders involving alcohol, drugs, or other substances. However, co-occurring disorders can extend beyond mental health and substance use, encompassing combinations of physical health conditions, developmental disorders, and various other medical or psychological issues.
Having co-occurring disorders can complicate diagnosis and treatment, as the interaction between the different conditions can influence the course and severity of each disorder. Integrated and comprehensive treatment approaches that address both the mental health and substance use aspects of an individual's condition are often considered the most effective way to manage co-occurring disorders. These approaches may involve a combination of psychotherapy, medication, support groups, and lifestyle interventions tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment
Mental health and substance use disorders are interconnected--addressing both aspects simultaneously is crucial for long-term success. Key components and strategies commonly used in the treatment of co-occurring disorders include many components used for all clients. Among them:
On the Exam
ASWB exam questions on this topic may look something like this:
- A client is diagnosed with both generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and opioid use disorder. What should be the social worker's FIRST consideration when developing a treatment plan?
- A social worker is treating a client with co-occurring bipolar disorder and stimulant use disorder. The client expresses a desire to stop taking prescribed medications for bipolar disorder. What is the social worker's BEST course of action?
- A social worker is working with a family where a parent has co-occurring depression and substance use disorder. What should be the social worker's focus when considering family interventions?
This material will show up on the exam, in social work practice, or, most likely, both. Get practice on questions like these--with answers, rationales, and suggested links for further study--on Social Work Test Prep's full-length practice tests.
January 3, 2024