Academic Minute Podcast

Cailyn Green, SUNY Empire – Best Practices in Treating Substance Use and Eating Disorders

How to treat multiple disorders in one individual can be a tricky equation for mental health professionals.

Cailyn Green, assistant professor of addiction studies in the school of human services at SUNY Empire, discusses best practices.

Cailyn Green, MS, Ph.D., Masters-CASAC is the Assistant Professor of Addiction Studies at SUNY Empire State University. Her research in the substance use field a supported by her past clinical experience.

She earned her BA degree in psychology from Wester New England University, her MS degree in forensic mental health from Sage Graduate School and her Ph.D. in criminal justice with a specialization in addiction science from Walden University. Dr. Green is also a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor in New York State. Dr. Greens area of expertise is supporting clinicians who work in the addiction field to best serve their clients. She spent her hands on clinical time working directly with the recently incarcerated population.

Kate Wells, LCSW earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the State University of New York at Albany. Prior to joining HPA/LiveWell full-time, Ms. Wells worked to support those in foster care, substance and addiction treatment and HIV care center. In addition, she was an Adjunct Professor at Empire State College. At HPA/LiveWell, Ms. Wells specializes in eating disorders, substance abuse, anxiety, trauma, mood disorders and gender identity. She uses a wide variety of treatment approaches including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, and Solution Focused Therapy.

Best Practices in Treating Substance Use and Eating Disorders

In the clinical world, mental health professionals must be ready to treat clients with more than one issue. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 40% of adults with substance use disorders also have at least one other mental illness. Previous research has identified that about one in five individuals with an eating disorder will also develop a substance use disorder during their lifetime. The DSM 5 classifies a substance use disorder as an individual continually using a substance despite problems associated with its use. The DSM 5 classifies eating disorders as being associated with an inability to regulate self-control and reward when it comes to food intake. It is also noted that the symptoms of eating related disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and binge eating disorders, are similar to the characteristics commonly seen in substance use disorders.

It can be tricky for clinicians to decide what evidence based best practice to use when treating eating disorders and substance-use issues togethers. While many substance-use counselors encourage the client to avoid being near the substance of choice, this same counselor must encourage the client to be comfortable around the other substance which is causing stress in their lives…food. Clients with eating disorders often have intense fear and anxiety surrounding their relationship with food. This fear comes from a client connecting food to a loss of control or a negative appearance. When it comes to eating disorders, exposure response prevention therapy is a commonly used approach. When treating a client for substance use, some of the commonly used evidence based best treatment practices include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution Focused Therapy Relapse prevention.

Harm reduction and Motivational Interviewing are two evidence based best practices which counselors can use with both types of clients.


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