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Co-Occurring Disorders: Introduction

Course Code: CODS 5100
Faculty: Child, Family & Community Studies
Department: Co-Occurring Disorders
Credits: 3.0
Semester: Flexible delivery ranging over 2-15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course will focus on understanding the etiology and nature of co-occurring disorders. Students will explore basic concepts of mental illness and addiction. Students will examine the use of current DSM as a reference tool for understanding mental illness and addiction disorders. Models for the delivery of services to clients with co-occurring disorders will be examined from a theoretical applied perspective.

Course Content

The following global ideas guide the design and delivery of this course:

  • Services for clients who have a co-occurring disorder are best provided simultaneously by the same practitioner within the same organization as opposed to traditional models involving sequential or parallel approaches.
  • Values, attitudes and beliefs influence and shape our interaction with persons with co-occurring disorders.
  • Research demonstrates that comorbidity of mental disorders and substance abuse should be considered an expectation rather than an exception.
  • Mental illness and addiction are medical conditions and should be treated and supported as any other illness.
  • Knowledge is the first step to understanding mental illness and addiction and if applied without bias can lead to better care and treatment for people with co-occurring disorders.
  • People possess an inherent capacity and resiliency that can, given an opportunity, mobilize change.
  • Mental illness and addiction affects not only the mind, body and spirit of the individual but also impacts the health of families, the workplace and society in general.
  • Conceptual knowledge of mental illness and addiction is necessary but insufficient for competent practice.  It must be balanced with and supported by a caring attitude, empathy, sensitivity and acceptance.
  • Mental illness and addictions singularly can be devastating and destructive illnesses, when they occur together (co-occurring) the difficulties become much more apparent and difficult to treat.
  • Self-awareness regarding one’s personal values and needs, the influence of one’s past experiences, and respect for the limits of one’s knowledge/ability and professional role, are essential prerequisites for skillful helping with persons with co-occurring illness.

Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture
  • Group work
  • Student presentations
  • Guest speakers
  • Audio-visual presentations

Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of evaluation would include a combination of:

  • Written assignments
  • Group presentations
  • Exams
  • Class activity participation
  • Case study evaluation

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Articulate theoretical perspectives
    • Define co-occurring disorders.
    • Describe mental illness and addiction from a practical and clinical viewpoint.
    • Understand the structure and application of DSM for clinical diagnosis of mental illness and addiction.
    • Explain primary diagnosis most commonly associated with co-occurring disorders.
    • Describe the various types, uses, and side effects of prescription medication.
    • Describe the impact of inappropriate use or n on-compliance use of medication.
    • Understand the potential interactions between psychiatric medications and drugs of abuse.
    • Describe the effects of substance abuse on the course of mental disorders.
    • Describe how mental disorders impact substance abuse.
    • Understand patterns and prevalence of substance abuse among persons with mental disorders.
  2. Describe current and historical attitudes and policies.
    • Demonstrate an understanding of past and present attitudes towards mental illness and addiction.
    • Demonstrate an ability to challenge popular yet inaccurate beliefs regarding these illnesses.
    • Demonstrate understanding of current and future policy and practice directions for persons with a co-occurring disorder.
    • List the cultural barriers that may be present in the treatment and support for persons with a co-occurring disorder.
  3. Understand professional roles with respect to working with persons with co-occurring disorders.
    • Demonstrate understanding of current and best practice approaches to treating and supporting persons with a co-occurring illness.
    • Describe the roles of various professionals who work with persons with a co-occurring disorder.
    • Identifies the importance of worker self-awareness and values for working with clients.
    • Describe front-line worker roles and responsibilities in treating and supporting those with a co-occurring illness.
    • Describe the role of family and other support networks in helping people with a co-occurring disorder.
  4. Describe best practice treatment intervention for co-occurring disorder.
    • Define best practice treatment and support practice for clients with mental illness, addiction and co-occurring illness.
    • Explain the importance of a strengths approach that mobilizes clients’ abilities.
    • Define the difference between sequential, parallel, and integrated treatment of co-occurring disorders.
    • Define the recovery and relapse prevention strategies to support persons with a co-occurring illness.
    • List currently available services for persons with co-occurring disorders.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.