1. Interview conducted by Chris Woodyard and Dr. Chelsea Bagias
INTERVIEWER: What would you consider the greatest risk in the life of the patient with co-occurring addiction and mental
DR. STENSON: Such individuals face a number of challenges but perhaps the greatest risk would be a preventable, premature
death. When diagnosis is delayed and treatment not provided, risk factors such as suicide, accidental death, and illness devel-
opment significantly increases. An individual’s quality of life can be significantly improved with proper diagnosis and treatment.
INTERVIEWER: What things would you consider as most important to add to the patient’s lives to increase resiliency?
DR. STENSON: Becoming a partner and meaningful participant in the individual’s treatment can greatly add to an individual’s
resiliency. Knowing that their treatment team understands the many challenges they face can be internalized and applied to
the day-to-day coping skills and resiliency.
INTERVIEWER: If you were to ask a patient further down the line in recovery what had the most impact on their success, what
information would you pass on to individuals still in more difficulty stages of recovery?
DR. STENSON: Learning to accept and cope with discouragement and demoralization is often a key element in moving
through the stages of recovery. Recognizing that one is not alone with these feelings and experiences is very important. It is
interesting how often acceptance breeds hope and optimism. Realizing that such symptoms as low energy are part of an ill-
ness and not part of the moral weakness can assist a great deal in making gradual improvement.
INTERVIEWER: What might be some of the main ways the media and society at large misjudge individuals with co-occurring
DR. STENSON: First of all, painting such individuals with the same brush is a common misjudgment. Lumping individuals to-
gether and drawing simplistic conclusions is common. Each individual is unique and deserves access to an individualized treat-
ment plan. Demonizing or vilifying such individuals is a sale’s or scare tactic used by the media who might have other agendas.
Viewing individuals on Social Security disability as lazy, manipulative, and a risk to the Federal budget would be such an exam-
INTERVIEWER: What kind of information may be helpful to the families of individuals experiencing co-occurring disorders?
DR. STENSON: Organizations such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) can provide a wealth of support and
information to such families. Programs such as Al-Anon can be very helpful when codependency issues are central themes. It
is important to understand that each of these organizations may not have a complete understanding of individuals with co-
occurring disorders and that incorporating components of each may be necessary. Information at the SAMHSA website is more
specifically tailored for families dealing with co-occurring disorders. At C.O.R.E., we either attempt to manage both the sub-
stance abuse and mental health needs of our clients or assure that they have access to the required community resources.
INTERVIEWER: What has been your personal background in dealing with addiction and mental health issues among loved
DR. STENSON: One advantage of society’s more open information exchange is the realization that most families are touched
in some way by individuals with substance abuse, mental illness, and co-occurring disorders. When close friends or family
members have requests for help or are in need of an intervention, I do my best to assure that appropriate direction is provided.
INTERVIEWER: What local services can you identify that would be beneficial for family members or patients dealing with co-
DR. STENSON: At C.O.R.E., an individual must first suffer from opioid addiction to be eligible for services. We work hard to
treat each patient with respect and to help them deal with this very serious illness and co-occurring disorders. The third
Wednesday of each month at 11 a.m., I conduct a workshop open to anyone interested in opioid addiction and related prob-
lems. Patients, family members, friends, staff and community members provide very positive feedback of the utility of this work-
shop. The historical and scientific background to our treatment model is explained and patients are encouraged to hold their
heads high and to become strong advocates for their treatment to hopefully improve future access. In achieving our goals, we
often are in close communication and cooperation with county ACCESS, community hospitals, and many other community
based organizations and resources.
INTERVIEWER: What roles do medication, psychotherapy/counseling, holistic treatment and spirituality play in recovery
from co-occurring issues? Continued on page 7