How Can Mental Health Help Addiction?

When addressing addiction, we believe it is just as important to access a client’s mental health and spiritual health as it is to treat their substance use disorder. One of our outpatient clients, Janine F., has had success coping with addictions by learning skills through mental health counseling.

Janine never thought that she would want to go to a mental health counselor, because she didn’t want to be forced to talk about her past experiences. However, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she was in control of what was discussed during a counseling session. No one made her talk about anything before she was ready. Janine describes her counseling sessions as a safe place to express herself without judgment.

Rather than using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, she now has positive outlets for her trauma, and she has tools for handling life’s stresses. Some of her past symptoms were anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and night terrors. Through the use of breathing exercises and positive self-talk, she can calm herself down so that she can make a thoughtful decision instead of responding automatically like she had in the past. After one year of counseling, Janine is off all her psychiatric medicines. Her relationships and her self-worth have improved, and most importantly, she is able to maintain her sobriety.

Her weekly sessions have helped her stay stable and she no longer has “worst case scenario” thoughts. Janine is enjoying the mental and emotional freedom she has gained through counseling, and she would highly encourage others to explore this aspect of addiction treatment.

Mental health and addiction are deeply intertwined, and addressing both is crucial for successful recovery. Here are some ways mental health can help with addiction:

Addressing underlying causes:

  • Uncovering and tackling mental health conditions: Many people turn to substances to cope with underlying mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or trauma. Addressing these conditions through therapy, medication, or other interventions can reduce the urge to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
  • Developing healthy coping mechanisms: Learning healthy ways to manage stress, difficult emotions, and triggers can reduce reliance on addictive substances.
  • Improving self-esteem and self-compassion: Addiction can damage self-worth. Mental health interventions can help rebuild self-esteem, cultivate self-compassion, and create a healthier relationship with oneself, reducing the need for escape through substances.

Supporting the recovery process:

  • Boosting motivation and resilience: Mental health therapies can help individuals find meaning and purpose in recovery, increasing their motivation to stay on track. Building resilience helps individuals cope with setbacks and challenges without resorting to substance use.
  • Enhancing social support: Addressing mental health issues like social anxiety or isolation can help individuals rebuild and strengthen social connections, providing invaluable support during the recovery journey.
  • Managing co-occurring mental health and addiction conditions: Many people struggle with both addiction and a mental health condition. Integrated treatment that addresses both simultaneously has proven much more effective than treating them separately.

Specific mental health approaches for addiction:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to addiction.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): Teaches skills for emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness, helping individuals manage urges and cope with triggers.
  • Motivational interviewing: Encourages individuals to explore their ambivalence about change and find their own motivation for recovery.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies: Teach techniques for focusing attention on the present moment and accepting difficult emotions without judgment, reducing cravings and impulsivity.


  • Addressing mental health is a crucial, not optional, part of addiction recovery.
  • Be patient and persistent, as recovery is a journey, not a destination.

If you are struggling with addiction and think your mental health might be playing a role, please reach out for help.