How Can Dual Diagnosis Help Me in Therapy?

The concept of a dual diagnosis refers to treatment both substance use disorder and a mental or behavioral health condition. Sometimes one may worse the other. Sometimes a person with mental illness may use drugs or alcohol to cope and in other instances it may uncover a mental illness or exacerbate underlying symptoms. Learn more about how dual diagnosis can be beneficial in a therapeutic setting.

How to Use Dual Diagnosis

Nearly 8 million adults struggle with a substance use disorder and mental health condition. Only a fraction of people seek professional help to deal with these problems. People who suffer from substance use and mental health disorders often exhibit symptoms that are more persistent, severe and resistant to treatment compared with people who suffer from one disorder. Individuals with dual diagnosis disorders require a treatment program grounded in understanding of both mental health and substance use disorders. Increasing numbers of substance use disorder treatment programs are equipped to deal with co-occurring disorders.


Clinical assessments for dual diagnosis will be carried out. Health professionals consider several factors which include:

  • Meeting criteria for a psychiatric disorder
  • Have a history of substance use with a negative impact on psychiatric health, relationships, work and other activities
  • May be a danger to self or others, with history of violence or experiencing suicidal thoughts
  • Has support system and resources available
  • Motivated to seek treatment and support for success

Seeking Help

Due to the complicated nature of co-occurring disorders, many people with dual diagnosis require additional services, ongoing support and on-site professionals from multidisciplinary backgrounds. These programs allow people suffering from complex issues around a dual diagnosis to receive treatment needed to get a start on the path to recovery. Inpatient programs are more intensive in that they:

  • Receive regular education on mental health and substance use issues
  • Receive daily therapy
  • Have daily opportunities to attend support groups
  • Immersion with community of people learning to live without drugs or alcohol
  • Participants in outpatient programs may receive medication management
  • Individual or family therapy
  • Independent living support for outpatient treatment

Dual-diagnosis for co-occurring disorders does not have to feel hopeless, it can bring lots of healing and support to the process of recovery. Remaining open to what the benefits will be is the best way to approach a dual-diagnosis and seek support from family, friends, loved ones and professionals who understand and can help guide an individual through the process to a better place.


The Villa supports individuals who are struggling with mental health, substance use and other disorders. If you are struggling and want help, we are here to guide you with our resources, tools and professional staff ready to assist you on the road to recovery.