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Training to Provide Effective Co-Occurring Services

Individuals with co-occurring mental and substance use disorders often have multiple complex conditions that may lead them to seek services in different systems of care. No matter which service system individuals with co-occurring disorders come to first, practitioners should be trained to recognize their needs and connect them with appropriate and effective treatment.

Training ranges from basic screening and referrals to evidence-based clinical interventions. A basic level of training in co-occurring disorders can benefit all practitioners while staff that work closely with individuals with co-occurring disorders need more advanced training.

Basic training

Basic training in co-occurring disorders typically ranges from a half-day to 2-days. They can be offered to a range of audiences including:

  • Practitioners
  • Administrators
  • General staff
  • Individuals with co-occurring disorders and their families

Training can be delivered in a variety of ways. Some examples include:

  • Partnering with colleges and universities to develop co-occurring disorders coursework
  • Offering Web-based training
  • Conducting sessions at conferences and institutes
  • Offering classroom training
  • Using a train-the-trainer approach
  • Using consumers to deliver portions of trainings

Basic training outlines definitions of common terms, principles underlying effective practice and the need for an integrated approach. It also may provide training on screening, an overview of assessment issues, treatment models or guidelines, and protocols for creating a continuum of care for individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Advanced training

Advanced training provide indepth information on specific evidence-based practices for co-occurring disorders for practitioners who provide integrated assessments and treatment to individuals with co-occurring disorders. Examples include:

Some states also train supervisors or leaders to promote integration and systems change. For example, Ohio provides leaders with a 2-day training program that covers a range of expectations for guiding change. Follow-up includes a yearlong consultation by phone and in person. Program leaders meet once or twice a year and participate in regional training annually.


Cross-training or conducting trainings that include both mental health and substance abuse staff, promotes integration. Cross-training can help practitioners develop an understanding of the types of services provided by practitioners in other service systems. It can promote respect and facilitate coordination of care. Programs to train practitioners across disciplines may include exercises for relationship building, role plays, and joint work on representative cases.

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