ASC5008 - Co-occurring disorders in mental health and addiction - 2018

12 points, SCA Band 2, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

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


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

Eastern Health Clinical School

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Victoria Manning


Dr Shalini Arunogiri
Mr Frank Hughes

Unit guides



  • First semester 2018 (Online)




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 will be able to:

  1. Critically review the limitations and assumptions of the various terminologies used to describe individuals with co-occurring disorders and how they are applied in different clinical and service settings.
  2. Discuss critically the prevalence of co-occurring disorders and common diagnostic combinations within a broader psychosocial context.
  3. Critique the major theoretical models on the aetiology of co-occurring disorders and how these determine priorities for effective management and treatment.
  4. Summarise and synthesise the unique challenges of working with this client group relative to mental health or Alcohol and other drug (AOD) using individuals without co-occurring disorders.
  5. Critically appraise common screening and assessment tools for cognitive impairment in this population and discuss how treatment approaches may need to be adapted.
  6. Critically review the treatment models of care for co-occurring disorders (e.g. parallel, sequential, integrated care, outreach etc), and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of such models in improving outcomes for clients with co-occurring disorders.
  7. Compare and contrast the application of generic treatment approaches in mainstream healthcare settings with tailored psychosocial/pharmacological interventions specific to the needs of individuals with co-occurring disorders.
  8. Formulate integrated assessment and treatment plans for clients with co-occurring disorders.


  • Participation in online discussions (Hurdle)
  • Essay: Critique (3,000 words) (25%)
  • Essays(50%) (Hurdle):
    • Formulation and treatment plan (3,000 words)
    • Discussion of the evidence supporting one aspect of the treatment plan (3,000 words)

    Note: You must reach a minimum pass of 45% in this assessment item to pass the unit.

  • Poster and oral presentation (30 minutes) (25%)

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

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