The goal of this study was to determine the bio-psychosocial treatment needs of dual diagnosis patients with depressive episodes and alcohol misuse. In order to achieve this goal, a qualitative research approach was adopted to gain a holistic understanding of dual diagnosis, as well as to explore and to describe the bio-psychosocial treatment needs of these individuals. This research study aimed to contribute towards solving a practical problem in practice by offering recommendations for a multidisciplinary team approach with regard to the treatment of patients diagnosed with depressive episodes and alcohol misuse in South African treatment centres.
To this end, the collective case study design guided the research study. A two-stage sampling strategy was implemented in the study. Firstly, purposive sampling was used to identify potential participants, and it was followed up with, secondly, volunteer sampling to recruit 10 individuals with co-occurring depressive episodes and alcohol misuse from a private psychiatric clinic in Pretoria, which formed the research sample. Furthermore, a semi-structured one-on-one interview, guided by questions contained in an interview schedule, was used as a data collection method. The researcher implemented the qualitative data analysis process of Creswell (1998, in Schurink, Fouché & De Vos, 2011) to extrapolate themes and sub-themes from the raw data through thematic analysis. The trustworthiness of the data interpretation was confirmed through peer debriefing, member checking, as well as the assurance of confidentiality. An analysis of two different sources of data, namely the literature review and interviews, was used to answer the following research question: What are the bio-psychosocial treatment needs of dual diagnosis patients suffering from depressive episodes and alcohol misuse?
The key findings indicated that persons suffering from a dual diagnosis of depressive episodes and alcohol misuse have idiosyncratic biological, psychological and social treatment needs. On a biological level it was found that patients with a dual diagnosis lead a less active and an unhealthy lifestyle and are therefore more prone to the development of chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It was also found that these individuals exhibit addictive behaviours apart from the alcohol misuse. With regard to psychological needs, the research found that dual diagnosis patients experience difficulties in expressing their needs and emotions to others. In this regard the research indicated that these individuals have poorly developed coping mechanisms and limited resources for gaining an improved sense of well-being. Identified areas in which these individuals may need assistance on a psychological level include: general coping mechanisms, communication skills, problem solving skills, and conflict management. With regard to violent and aggressive behaviour, it was found that these individuals are more likely to internalise their frustration and aggress towards themselves. On a social level it was found that individuals with a dual diagnosis of depressive episodes and alcohol misuse experience more relationship breakdown and less social support. Additionally, on a social level these individuals experience difficulties in coping in the workplace, as well as having problems with financial management.
It is recommended that the multidisciplinary team participate in the development of psycho-educational groups that focus on the education of dual diagnosis patients regarding their needs on each level of functioning. Furthermore, it is recommended that effective clinical communication patterns are in place to prevent fragmented service delivery to individuals with a dual diagnosis. It is recommended that service delivery takes place in all forms of service delivery, including individual therapy, psycho-educational groups, group work activities, as well as family counselling.
Further research could focus on the following: 1) Extending the research population to areas outside the Gauteng Province, or even South Africa, in order to determine if these findings can be generalised to all patients with a dual diagnosis of depressive episodes and alcohol misuse; 2) Conducting the research in public health care centres to determine if the findings of this study are also prevalent in lower socio-economic classes (taking into consideration that the present study was conducted at a private psychiatric clinic); 3) Repeating the study with different combinations of psychiatric illnesses, as well as substances of abuse, to determine if the conclusions drawn from this study can be made applicable to dual diagnosis in general, or only to dual diagnosis with depressive episodes and alcohol misuse in particular.