Dual Diagnosis Groups for Adolescents with Mild to Moderate Substance Use

ATLANTA – In Spring 2023, the Skyland Trail adolescent residential treatment program began offering an additional layer of support for adolescent clients with a primary mood or anxiety disorder and co-occurring mild to moderate substance use. Teens who meet clinical criteria participate in an additional dual diagnosis group twice each week.

In addition to foundational therapeutic work with a CBT or DBT focus, clients in dual diagnosis groups gain a deeper understanding of the impact of their substance use – including alcohol, marijuana, and other substances – on their mental health. Motivational interviewing is employed as an evidence-based modality.

In dual diagnosis groups, clients learn to replace patterns of substance use or experimentation with healthy coping skills. Though psychoeducation, dual diagnosis groups also empower teens to make healthy choices as they navigate their teenage years and move into adulthood.

Adolescents whose current substance use requires detox are referred to an appropriate program and may reapply to Skyland Trail for admission after completing detox. Adolescents with severe cravings or urges to use alcohol, marijuana, or other substances, or who have physiological symptoms, likely are not appropriate for the Skyland Trail adolescent treatment program.

Teens in the adolescent residential treatment program are assigned to a core CBT skills or DBT skills group based on their diagnoses and symptoms. Each client is assigned a structured weekly schedule that also includes ecological systems theory groups, family therapy sessions, one-on-one sessions with the psychiatrist, individual therapy sessions with the primary therapist, fitness groups, arts and music activities, outdoor and nature activities, and recreational therapy groups.