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Co-Occurring Disorders and Homelessness

Training Practitioners to Work with Individuals with Co-occurring Disorders who are Homeless

Practitioners working with individuals experiencing homelessness benefit from specialized training in co-occurring disorders, and practitioners who work with individuals with co-occurring disorders benefit from training about the challenges of homelessness. Training may take a range of forms, from web-based training and lunch talks, to more in-depth advanced training, perhaps working towards a certification.

Basic training for homeless staff

As a place to start, some training resources that explain the special circumstances for serving an individual with co-occurring disorders who is homeless include:

Basic training for behavioral health staff

Standard clinical practice guidelines often fail to take into consideration the unique challenges faced by persons experiencing homelessness. Practitioners with extensive experience caring for individuals who are homeless routinely adapt their practice to foster better outcomes for these patients. Those with less experience working with people who are homeless can increase their "homeless cultural competency" with resources such as:

Because of the reluctance of many homeless people to seek treatment for co-occurring disorders, outreach is essential in order to engage those who otherwise might not get care.

For more resources, see below.

Motivational interviewing is a key competency for staff working with homeless individuals with co-occurring disorders. Motivational interviewing is a complex clinical skill that often takes considerable practice to master. In addition to training, ongoing consultations will help practitioners more effectively learn and implement motivational interviewing.

Another evidence-based practice for individuals with co-occurring disorders who experience homelessness is critical time intervention. Critical Time Intervention provides emotional and practical support during transitions from institutional to community care. Practitioners work with individuals with co-occurring disorders to strengthen their social and service support network. Read more about Critical Time Intervention by clicking here.


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