Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Monash University

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2015 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

print version

12 points, SCA Band 2, 0.250 EFTSL

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.

FacultyFaculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences
Organisational UnitEastern Health Clinical School
OfferedClayton First semester 2015 (Online)
Coordinator(s)Dr Victoria Manning


This unit provides an overview of the key considerations for clinicians, policy makers, researchers and service providers working with individuals who have a co-occurring disorders (i.e. alcohol or drug disorders that exist alongside mental health or physical health disorders). It will present the latest research findings on effective identification, management and treatment of this complex challenging population. Emphasis will be on disorders that commonly co-exist alongside drug and alcohol disorders, including alcohol and anxiety/depression, tobacco/alcohol and cardiovascular disease, acquired brain injury, intravenous drug use and infectious diseases as well as misuse of licit and illicit substances among individuals with severe mental illness, such as cannabis and schizophrenia. Whilst the unit encourages critical appraisal of the major theoretical concepts, it adopts a more applied approach including an introduction to the principles of case-formulation and the development of treatment plans.

Unit topics will include taxonomy and definitions of co-occurring disorders, prevalence and common co-occurring conditions, and will examine the multi-axial needs and unique challenges of working with this population. The module will look at conceptual models in relation to the aetiology of co-occurring disorders, methods of detection, screening and assessment as well as models of treatment and service delivery. The module will also examine the evidence for the effectiveness of population and service responses, as well as the role of motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy and mutual aid groups, in managing this population, including specifically-tailored psychosocial interventions. Evidence for medical management of this population will be explored, including pharmacological approaches.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Critically review the various terminologies used to describe individuals with co-occurring disorders
  2. Determine the prevalence of co-occurring disorders, common diagnostic combinations and related life complexities/issues and present an academically-informed argument outlining priority focus areas for treatment providers
  3. Critique the major theoretical models on the aetiology of co-occurring disorders and how these shape effective management and treatment
  4. Summarise and synthesise the unique challenges of working with this client group and evaluate evidence supporting their poorer prognosis relative to patients without co-occurring disorders based on empirical literature
  5. Critically review the evidence base on the application of mainstream/generic treatment approaches used in the addiction and mental health fields as well as psychosocial/pharmacological interventions tailored to the specific needs of this population
  6. Critically review and synthesise the evidence for the systems and treatment models (e.g. integrated care, outreach etc.) for co-occurring disorders and synthesise the evidence on their effectiveness
  7. Design an appropriate screening, assessment, referral and treatment plan for clients with complex multi-axial needs.


Participation in online discussions (Hurdle)
Proposal for a co-occurring disorders screening battery (Written) (3,000 words) (25%)
Case study: Formulation and treatment plan (30 minutes oral presentation) (25%)
Essay (6,000 words) (50%)

Workload requirements

Students enrolling in ASC5008 will be expected to contact the unit coordinator(s) regularly throughout the semester and participate in online discussion with fellow students and academic staff. Students should expect to spend around 24 hours a week of self-directed learning. This includes accessing online lectures, podcasts and resources as well as participating in forum discussions questions and quizzes via Moodle in addition to conducting offline independent study such as reading, research and writing activities.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study