Things that can help with dual diagnosis recovery

With the right combination of support, dually diagnosed people can and do recover. The Dual Diagnosis Hub aims to help everyone to find the best dual diagnosis support and resources available.

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Things that can help with dual diagnosis recovery

CMHT’s & the Medical Profession

When seeking help with your dual diagnosis, the medical profession should be your first port of call.

Psychiatrists/doctors/medical staff can not only decide on whether your symptoms are severe enough to be diagnosed as a mental illness, but they’ll also be an crucial part of providing treatment for your mental health problem(s).

Usually, they might treat your mental health condition themselves (by prescribing appropriate medications or treatments), or they’ll refer you to other, more specific support (psychiatrist, specialists or psychologists, for example).

If you aren’t already seeing a psychiatrist, you may well be referred to a local mental health team.

You should make an appointment with your GP or healthcare professional as soon as you begin to notice a decline in your mental health.


Psychologists can help you work on changing your thinking patterns and processes. They can also help you prepare for processing any trauma with a specialist trauma counsellor if that’s part of your story.


Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP for short, is a way of monitoring
& managing long-term mental health problems and creating plans when you’re well, for when you aren’t.

It includes:

  • What you’re like when you’re well
  • What you need to do every day to stay well
  • What your triggers or ‘stressors’ are
  • What the warning signs are when you’re starting to become unwell
  • What you’d like to happen when you become unwell (Crisis Plan)
  • What you feel like when you’re starting to improve again

Getting the proper support for your dual diagnosis:

Dual Diagnosis Support Groups

There are a couple of support groups specifically designed to help those with co-occurring mental health and addiction issues, including:

  1. Dual Diagnosis Anonymous
  2. Dual Recovery Anonymous

Find Dual Diagnosis-Friendly Meetings

Not all meetings are completely safe places for people with a dual diagnosis (who have to take medications as part of their recoveries), Most groups have a more healthy stance on medications these days, but not all.

Some traditional support groups state that mental health is out of their scope, but if your mental health is as important to you as it is to me, then you’ll probably need to mention your mental health in your addiction support groups.

It’s worth pointing out that not all meetings will be happy about you talking about your mental health in an addiction support group context.

We recommend trying out lots of different meetings & support groups to discover like-minded people who are genuinely helpful to you and your recovery and who don’t mind you mentioning your mental health at times.

No two meetings or support groups are the same, so keep trying them out until you find places where you feel safe and supported.

Gratitude Lists

I have to confess that when my first sponsor suggested that I write a gratitude list, I didn’t see the point and didn’t think that I had anything to be grateful for as my mental health was all over the place; I felt terrible and was angry about that.

But, fast forward 15 years, now that I’ve incorporated gratitude lists into my daily routine, I am entirely sold on them!

People in recovery often have a ‘magnifying mind’, so what we focus on what affects our perspective and perception of our lives, and these can increase the more we focus on them.

In 12 Step fellowships, people often say that “a grateful alcoholic/addict will never drink or use again”.

For me, it’s all about staying focused on the positive things in life. There are usually a lot of things to be grateful for, whatever stage of recovery we’re in (even in early days).

Not to be drunk, using, &/or suffering withdrawals is a great start in my opinion, and, in my experience, there are always positives that I can take out of a day.

When the Higher Power of your understanding has given you the courage to try something new, or when you have a warm place to live, or when I’m you’re not going hungry; these are all things that you might want to include in your gratitude list.

Maybe you have a lot of support for my addiction(s) and mental health now. Having a good sponsor could be something to include in your list, or maybe you feel like you’re moving in a positive direction?

When I sit down and focus on all of the fantastic things that recovery brings, gratitude lists are a handy tool.

At first, when I started writing five things that I’m grateful for every day, it helped a lot and was a tremendous tool that helped me stay optimistic. Still, these days, it’s one of my go-to solutions when I am having a challenging day to help get my perception & focus back on being grateful, rather than resentful or hostile.

Even on a bad day, when I’ve made mistakes or things haven’t gone my way, I can be thankful for the fact that I haven’t drunk or used drugs.

Connecting with other people in recovery (dual diagnosis-friendly people)

It can often help to reach out to those who have more experience in recovery, especially when we get thoughts about drinking or using non-prescribed drugs.

There are a lot of recovery support groups around. So, whether you’re looking for diagnosis-specific support or addiction-specific support, there is a vast choice.

With the arrival of Covid-19, it has opened up a whole new world of online meetings & support groups have opened up too. We suspect that online meetings are here to stay.


Prayer may be something that you don’t want to do. But we can wholeheartedly recommend trying it as it can be a handy tool in recovery, whether you believe in a Higher Power or not.

When I started trying to get sober, I really couldn’t see what prayer had to do with recovering from an addiction and was quite close-minded about trying it out.

My diagnosis meant that, at the time, some of my mental health problems got triggered by religious practices, and I was not too fond of the dogma associated with organised religion.

But I would now say that prayer can be a fantastic way of coping with cravings, distressing thoughts, and intense emotions when combined with meditation.

I believe that a Higher Power doesn’t set too hard terms for those seeking Him.

So, suppose you don’t like the idea of getting on your knees to pray. In that case, you might prefer to try just closing your eyes and asking for your Higher Power’s help to stay clean & sober each day and then doing the same thing at the end of the day but thanking your Higher Power for giving you the strength to stay sober that day.

Meditation & breathing exercises

Meditation and breathing exercises can be a great way to reduce intense emotions and provide a solid coping strategy for a whole range of mental health and recovery symptoms.

If you have a smartphone, numerous apps provide some free guided meditations. There are also apps with environment-specific looping sounds such as rain, running water, waves, thunder, or other soothing environments.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, then this ‘Balance’ smartphone app teaches people how to meditate. It helps you learn all sorts of handy ways to use different meditating, grounding, & breathing exercises. These tools can help reduce symptoms and increase wellbeing:

Short breathing exercises can be great if you need to calm yourself down at any point in your day.

Some people with specific diagnoses and symptoms often say that meditation is impossible because they can’t focus long enough. Still, we really would recommend that you persist with these practices as in our experience, someone will often progress with these practices if they keep trying them.

Using the phone or texting people

12 Step fellowships often recommend that you get as many numbers from newcomers and other members as you can. It’s good to feel ‘connected’, and it’s good to keep in touch with other people in recovery.

Also, finding people we respect and trust in the support groups & 12 Step meetings is an essential part of recovery and developing a healthy and robust support network. Although asking them for their telephone numbers or email addresses can be difficult at first, we wholeheartedly recommend doing it.

We also recommend men asking men and women to ask other women in early recovery to save from possible problems that often come with romantic relationships in early recovery.

Attending Mental health Support Groups

Support groups can be a great addition to someone’s dual recovery as they provide targeted support if you’re struggling in a particular area.

There’s a whole range of different support groups available to people with mental health & addiction problems.

Some support groups are addiction-specific, like Marijuana Anonymous, and some are diagnosis or symptom-specific, such as the Hearing Voices Network.

So, it’s worth researching local & national agencies as there are sure to be many different options for those who want them.

Check out our database of support groups if you’d like to save yourself some time searching on the internet.

Trauma Counselling

Many people with severe mental health problems have been through some form of trauma. Many of us have come into recovery, holding onto a lot of anger, guilt, or shame about the trauma(s).

This is not unusual, abnormal, or rare. We’ve met professionals who state that there’s almost always a traumatic event(s) in the history or background when someone has mental health problems.

If that’s something you’ve been through, it’s imperative to be kind & compassionate with yourself and remember that trauma isn’t your fault and that, especially with childhood trauma(s), you had no part in it.

If someone tries to tell you that you had a part in childhood trauma, ignore them at the very least, or give them a wide berth if you can, as those kinds of unhelpful comments are inaccurate and unhelpful at best.

We think it’s essential to make your peace with it, but we recommend seeking some professional advice and support with these types of issues.

We don’t say that as anything against any particular fellowship, support group or organisation, but sometimes, people in these organisations don’t understand the complexity of trauma(s), especially childhood trauma.

In Crisis

As people with mental health issues and addiction(s), we can expect that we will have days or even weeks when our mental health rears its ugly head.

Stay calm and get on the phone with your GP or Community Mental Health Team as soon as you start to notice symptoms. Prevention is better and more accessible than cure with mental health problems in recovery.

It’s important to remember that although we may be struggling, our recovery from alcohol or drugs has to be the primary consideration in all of our actions.

My experience of not doing that is that at best, you can act in risky ways, or at worst, have a full-blown relapse in your addiction(s).

One of the things that we love about a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (see WRAP section above) is that it allows us to make an evolving Action Plan that can help us get and stay well. It also has an area in the plan template for creating a Crisis Plan.

We should try to create this when we are well. It includes things like how we like people to treat us when we’re unwell, what can help get us into a better place and allow us to put some things in place that we’d like to happen when and after we’re in crisis.

Your local mental health professional will often be able to create this one, but if not, then you can buy a book on how to make one called ‘WRAP for Addictions: Finding Freedom from Unwanted Patterns‘:

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