3 Therapies to Address a Dual Diagnosis in Mental Health Clients

by | Feb 27, 2018 | Mental Health | 2 comments

When someone is suffering from a dual diagnosis condition, it means that they have both a mental health condition and an additional disorder, which is often addiction. Addiction is a mental health condition, just like depression or anxiety, and needs to be treated as seriously as those.

There are special therapies that can be used to treat people who are suffering with a dual diagnosis, since they need specific help to treat not only addiction, but also an underlying illness.


There are several kinds of psychotherapy that can work for dual diagnosis clients of all ages. If your loved one is tactile, for instance, psychotherapy may be completed with art therapy or one-on-one talk therapy. Other clients may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on helping a person consciously realize how their thoughts affect their moods and actions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is very common for those with a dual diagnosis. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the therapy helps with several things, including:

Teaching clients how to recognize destructive thoughts and processes. Once the destructive thought is identified, the client is able to recognize it.

Teaching a client how to change his or her behavior to a less destructive action after recognizing a thought or action.

Here’s an example: If your loved one reaches for marijuana every time he’s feeling a little depressed, then he would be taught to recognize that his depression is treatable and needs management. Instead of taking marijuana, he may be given a different medication to take to help alleviate the hormonal imbalance in the brain.


When your loved one suffers from a mental health condition and drug addiction, the first thing that needs to happen is for the drug abuse to stop. This is done through a detoxification process that is then followed by rehabilitation. Once your loved one has moved past needing the drug to function physically, other medications may be started to treat the underlying mental health condition.

For example, if anxiety was the problem triggering drug abuse, an anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed, at least for a short time, to get your loved one’s anxiety under control. By working to eliminate the underlying issue, your loved one may be at a lower risk of relapse.

Support Groups

After a client has stopped using drugs, and even during the time when the client is recovering, a support group can be a major help. These groups have several individuals going through similar situations, but since they are all at different stages of healing, they can assist one another through tough times and hard decisions.

According to Medline Plus, with a dual diagnosis, both drug or alcohol addiction and a mental health condition are present, so the support group will typically also be a dual diagnosis group. The conditions people have may vary, but all are trying to improve themselves and their mental health.

With groups like this, your loved one, whether 20 or 40, can speak to those with the same conditions to learn how they handle cravings, relapses, and other issues.


  1. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml
  2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dualdiagnosis.html