Dual Diagnosis Treatment Program in Mississippi

Dr. Saurabh Bhardwaj

Dr. Bhardwaj, Medical Director is a Board-Certified Addiction Psychiatrist (ABPN) and currently the Medical Director of Defining Wellness Center in Brandon MS. He is also an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Director of Center for Innovation & Discovery in Addictions (CIDA) at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He has been in Mississippi since 2018, building Addiction services for the state's only medical center and joined Defining Wellness Center in 2022 to provide specialized dual diagnostic services. He is a recipient of Ruth Fox scholarship from AAAP and trailblazer teaching award from UMMC. He is also a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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Clinical Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Co-occurring disorders, also referred to as dual diagnosis, is the terminology used when an individual struggles with both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. An average of 50% of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder will also be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, meaning that about half of our client population will be receiving treatment for co-occurring disorders during their time at Defining Wellness Centers.

Dual Diagnosis


50% of people who have an alcohol use disorder or regularly abuse drugs also have a co-occurring disorder

Co-Occurring Disorders Treated by Professionals

Mental health and substance use disorders can develop over time and either one can contribute to the other. For example, an individual who struggles with a mental health diagnosis such as social anxiety or depression may turn to a substance like alcohol to numb their feelings. Over time, tolerance and then addiction to alcohol can develop. Conversely, one may abuse a substance like alcohol or opioids and in turn, develop depression or other mental health symptoms as a result of the substance’s impact on their brain and body.

When entering a treatment program it’s critical that there’s a qualified team of professionals who can assess each client and make appropriate diagnoses and clinical recommendations to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Our team of board-certified, licensed psychiatrists, addictionologists, nurses and therapists work together to detox clients, if appropriate, so that their brains can begin functioning without the presence of substances. This allows for a baseline to be established, making it possible for our team to determine diagnoses.

Part of why it’s so important that clients detox from substances and meet with the licensed professionals at Defining Wellness Centers is because many individuals are misdiagnosed with mental health illnesses when they’re actively using substances. When one’s brain is under the influence of drugs and alcohol, it’s not functioning in any sort of “normal” way, leading medical professionals to diagnose the best they can in a given situation. We assess each client throughout their time in our programs, across all levels of care, to make sure that if there is a diagnosis, it’s correct and being treated accordingly.

What Causes a Dual Diagnosis?

Clients can struggle with any number of mental health conditions. In the roughly 50% of our client population impacted by co-occurring symptoms, we often see anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When clients are in the throes of their addiction, they aren’t necessarily making smart or healthy choices for themselves, leading to scary scenarios, poor overall health, and total exhaustion. This creates a perfect storm from which dual diagnosis symptoms emerge. As a result of the trauma clients have endured while using drugs or alcohol, there are often residual emotional implications that are addressed in individual and group therapy sessions throughout their treatment program.

As clients get sober and begin working on themselves, many times traumatic memories will arise of things they had blocked out. These traumas may be related to events that occurred long ago and underscored their addiction, or they may have occurred when abusing substances. Our philosophy is that in order to help our clients gain clarity and embrace overall wellness, they need to address the issues that have contributed to or were influenced by their substance use. Our medical and clinical treatment teams work together to earn our client’s trust and support them as they fight for their overall health.

Treating Dual Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Disorders

When people hear the terms ‘medical’ and ‘psychiatric,’ they tend to think that this means medication. While in some scenarios non-narcotic medication is integral to being well and balancing one’s brain, it’s not always necessary. Our team conducts full, ongoing reviews of each client’s case throughout their treatment program to collaboratively make recommendations for client care. We encourage our clients to join in this process, as they need to be comfortable with any decisions made in regard to their care in order to follow them post-treatment.

In addition to reviewing medication needs, our team employs a variety of therapeutic modalities and techniques when working with dual diagnosis clients. Psychotherapeutic interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Psychodrama allow clients to explore and confront their thought processes and behaviors to ultimately change ineffective ways of thinking. Throughout this process, our trained clinical team provides techniques to clients on how to better emotionally regulate themselves, learning and implementing coping skills to aid them in long-term recovery and wellness.

We also offer therapies that are specific to various forms of co-occurring disorders such as:

The Wellness Lab at Defining Wellness Centers is life-changing for all of our clients, and even more impacting for those with co-occurring disorders. Clients have the opportunity to utilize cutting-edge biotechnology to help their brains regain a sense of balance more quickly than ever before. As a result, clients are more open to accepting the education and techniques that they’re learning through individual therapy and group therapy sessions. Through biofeedback and Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy (PEMF), the recorded use of which dates back as far as 2000 B.C ., the brain and body’s function is optimized for self-healing and self-regulation.

A Full Spectrum Approach

Our program takes an approach that targets multiple areas simultaneously. Psychological, mental, spiritual, and physical are all addressed in our client’s treatment plans. Plans are developed collaboratively with each client, with input from our medical and clinical teams. Dual diagnosis can be scary, but individuals do not have to fight it alone. Defining Wellness Centers’ program provides access to a community of individuals experiencing similar symptoms, decreasing feelings of isolation. Recognizing that one isn’t alone and drawing upon a group of peers can make a positive difference. We’re here to support our clients as they begin their wellness journey – if you or a loved one are worried you may be struggling with dual diagnosis symptoms, please call us today to share your story. We will listen, provide support and share guidance so that you too can begin healing.