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The Journey to Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Learn about dual diagnosis recovery. Boardwalk Recovery Center offers comprehensive treatment, medication management, and ongoing support.

Table of Contents

What is Dual Diagnosis Recovery?

Dual diagnosis recovery refers to the process of treating and managing co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis refers to having both a mental health and substance use disorder. This can make recovery more complex. This is because the two diagnoses are often intertwined and can impact each other.

dual diagnosis recovery

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

For successful recovery, you need to address both issues at the same time. This may involve a combination of:

Goal of Dual Diagnosis Treatment

The goal of dual diagnosis recovery is more than treating the symptoms of both disorders. It also aims to help people build the skills to maintain long-term recovery. With the right support, individuals with a dual diagnosis can lead fulfilling lives free from the harmful effects of substance abuse.

In this article we will learn about the key ingredients for successful dual diagnosis recovery, common myths and misconceptions about dual diagnosis, and where to find help.

Key Components of Dual Diagnosis Recovery

The key components of an effective dual diagnosis recovery program include:

Integrated Treatment Approach

An approach that addresses all concerns is crucial to a successful recovery. Treatment programs should be tailored to each individual’s specific needs.1 A team of mental health professionals should work with the individual to develop a personalized treatment plan.


Medication can help manage symptoms of mental health disorders, helping people feel balanced and healthy. They can also help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with substance use.

It is important to work with a healthcare provider to find the best medication for you. This will ensure proper medication management and avoid potential drug interactions.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is a cornerstone of dual diagnosis recovery. Therapy helps individuals develop coping strategies, identify triggers, and learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions in healthy ways.

Common evidence-based therapies used during dual diagnosis recovery include:

Support Groups

Support groups provide a supportive environment where individuals can connect with others who have had similar experiences. Support groups can offer valuable encouragement, accountability, and motivation to maintain recovery. Examples of support groups include:
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  •  SMART Recovery

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can improve both physical and mental health. These changes can also reduce the risk of relapse. Some healthy behaviors include:
  • Regular exercise
  • A balanced diet
  •  Proper sleep
  •  Good hygiene

Ongoing Support

Recovery is a lifelong process. Ongoing support from your community is crucial for maintaining sobriety and managing symptoms. Support can include:
  • Continued therapy
  • Participation in support groups
  •  Regular check-ins with healthcare providers
  •  Establishing a strong support network

Barriers to Dual Diagnosis Recovery and Strategies to Overcome Them

Individuals with dual diagnosis may face several challenges during recovery. These challenges can include:


Unfortunately, many people experience stigma associated with mental health and substance use disorders. This can make it difficult for individuals to seek help. It may also lead to feelings of shame and isolation. Strategies to overcome stigma can include:2

  • Seeking support from friends and family
  • Participating in support groups
  •  Educating oneself and others about the realities of dual diagnosis

Complex Treatment Needs

Dual diagnosis is very complex. It can be challenging to find a treatment program that meets your specific needs. Strategies to overcome this challenge can include:
  • Working with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan
  • Seeking out specialized dual diagnosis treatment programs

Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

Individuals with dual diagnosis may also have co-occurring medical conditions. These medical issues can complicate recovery. Common conditions are chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. Strategies to overcome this challenge are:
  •  Attending regular medical appointments
  •  Working with a healthcare provider to manage any conditions


Relapse is a common challenge during dual diagnosis recovery. If you experience relapse, don’t be discouraged. Strategies to prevent relapse are:

  •  Identifying triggers
  •  Developing coping strategies
  •  Seeking support

Lack of Social Support

Lack of social support can be a significant barrier to recovery for dual diagnosis. Strategies to overcome this challenge can include:
  •  Participating in support groups
  •  Developing healthy hobbies and joining groups
  •  Engaging in activities that promote social connection
It is vital to approach dual diagnosis recovery with a long-term plan. It can take time and effort to overcome the challenges of dual diagnosis. Individuals can achieve and maintain lasting recovery with the right strategies and support.

Dual Diagnosis vs. Single Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis recovery presents different challenges than recovery from a single disorder. The primary difference is that in dual diagnosis recovery, both disorders must be treated together. The disorders are typically intertwined and impact each other.

Considerations During Treatment and Recovery

Individuals with a dual diagnosis may face more challenges and need more support.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
  • Increased risk of relapse: Individuals with dual diagnosis are at an increased risk of relapse.3 It is important to develop strategies to prevent relapse. It is also important to provide ongoing support to maintain sobriety.
  • Increased risk of suicide: Individuals with dual diagnosis are at an increased risk of suicide.4 This means that appropriate support and treatment is vital.
  • Medication management: Those with co-occurring conditions may need medication to manage symptoms.
  • Social support: Social support is crucial for individuals with dual diagnosis. They may face stigma and isolation due to their disorders. Even without the stigma, recovery is hard work. Having a supportive network of loved ones can be extremely beneficial in promoting recovery.
Of course, this does not mean that people with single diagnoses have it “better” than people with dual diagnoses. These are general trends to be aware of. Everyone’s journey to recovery is unique.

Coping Skills and Self-Care for Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Coping skills and self-care are important for maintaining dual diagnosis recovery. There are several effective coping skills and practices that can help support recovery. These include:

Stress Management

Stress can be a significant trigger for people with mental health and substance use disorders. Learning how to manage stress is important for staying healthy and maintaining recovery.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Adopting healthy lifestyle choices can improve health and well-being and reduce the risk of relapse. Getting regular exercise, eating well, and sleeping well are great places to start.

Building a Supportive Social Network

A supportive social network can provide valuable encouragement, accountability, and motivation. You don’t have to go through your recovery journey alone.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, while also reducing the risk of relapse. These techniques can include:

  •  Guided imagery
  •  Progressive muscle relaxation
  •  Aromatherapy
  •  Yoga

Self-Care Practices

Engaging in self-care practices can be a healthy way of coping. Self-care practices can also serve as alternatives to negative behaviors. Examples of self-care include:
  •  Journaling
  •  Taking a hot bath
  •  Engaging in a hobby

Continue Learning

Knowledge is power. Seeking education about mental health and substance use disorders can help individuals:
  •  Better understand their conditions
  •  Reduce stigma
  •  Empower them to take an active role in their recovery
It is important to note that coping skills and self-care practices should be individualized. These practices may vary depending on an individual’s preferences.

How to Reduce Relapse in Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Relapse prevention is a critical component of dual diagnosis recovery. Relapse is common, and it can be challenging to manage.5 Relapse prevention strategies aim to reduce the risk of relapse. They also help individuals maintain long-term recovery.
Some relapse strategies that can help with dual diagnosis recovery include:

Identifying Triggers

Identifying triggers that can lead to substance use or exacerbate symptoms is an important first step in relapse prevention. Triggers can include:

  •  Stress
  •  People
  •  Social situations
  • Negative emotions

Developing Coping Strategies

Developing healthy coping strategies to manage triggers will help to reduce the risk of relapse. Coping strategies may include:
  •  Stress-management techniques
  •  Practicing self-care
  •  Avoiding high-risk situations

Staying Connected

Maintaining a strong support network during recovery is an important part of relapse prevention.

Continuing Treatment

Continuing treatment with therapy and medication can help individuals manage symptoms during dual diagnosis recovery.

Creating a Relapse Prevention Plan

Working with a mental health professional to create a relapse prevention plan can be a helpful exercise. The plan should help individuals prepare for potential triggers and develop strategies to manage them.
Remember that experiencing relapse does not mean you have failed. It can be a normal part of the recovery process. Individuals can achieve and maintain lasting recovery by:
  •  Being aware of triggers
  •  Developing healthy coping strategies
  •  Staying connected to their support network
  •  Continuing treatment

Myths and Misconceptions about Dual Diagnosis

There are several common misconceptions about dual diagnosis recovery that can be harmful. It is important to understand the facts and realities of dual diagnosis recovery. This helps to promote accurate information and reduce stigma.

Misconception #1: Dual Diagnosis Is a Rare Condition

Fact: Dual diagnosis is common. Studies estimate that between 30% and 50% of individuals with a substance use disorder also have a co-occurring mental health disorder.6

Misconception #2: Individuals with Dual Diagnosis Cannot Recover

Fact: Recovery from dual diagnosis is possible with the right treatment and support. With a treatment approach that addresses both mental health and substance use, individuals can achieve and maintain lasting recovery.

Misconception #3: Dual Diagnosis Recovery Is a Quick Fix

Fact: Dual diagnosis recovery is a lifelong process. Recovery requires ongoing treatment and support. It will take time and effort to achieve and maintain lasting recovery.

Misconception #4: Individuals with Dual Diagnosis Are “Weak” or “Lazy”

Fact: Mental health and substance use disorders are medical conditions. Individuals with these conditions need treatment and support. Blaming individuals with dual diagnosis is harmful and perpetuates stigma.

Misconception #5: Medication Is not Necessary in Dual Diagnosis Recovery

Fact: Medication can be a crucial component of dual diagnosis recovery. It is often helpful for managing symptoms of mental health disorders. Medication is also used to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Misconception #6: Recovery From One Disorder Means Recovery From Both Disorders

Fact: Recovery from one disorder does not mean recovery from both disorders. It is important to address both mental health and substance use disorders together.
Remember, recovery is possible with the right treatment and support. It is vital to promote accurate information and reduce stigma surrounding dual diagnosis.

How Loved Ones Can Support Your Recovery

Family members and friends play a key role during the recovery journey. Here are some strategies and resources that can help:


Learning about dual diagnosis can help loved ones provide more effective support. It can also help them to understand the challenges that their loved one is facing. Resources can provide valuable information and education. These can include:
  •  Books
  •  Online articles
  •  Support groups


Open and honest communication can help foster a supportive environment during recovery. It is important for loved ones to listen to each other’s needs and concerns while being able to express their own in a non-judgmental way.

Support Groups

There are special support groups meant for the loved ones of those with dual diagnosis. These can be safe and supportive spaces where people can share experiences and seek guidance. Examples of such support groups include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Dual Recovery Anonymous.


Setting healthy boundaries is important for both the individual working on dual diagnosis recovery and their loved ones. It is important to establish clear expectations and limits. Establish boundaries around behavior, communication, and support.


Loved ones of individuals with dual diagnosis may experience their own challenges and difficult emotions. It is important for them to focus on their own self-care.


Friends and family can be a valuable source of encouragement. Remember to celebrate small victories to help your loved one feel supported and motivated during recovery.
Supporting the recovery journey of someone with dual diagnosis can take a lot of work. Family and friends should also seek support for their own challenges and difficult emotions. They can play a vital role in their loved one’s recovery journey.

Find Support for Dual Diagnosis Recovery at Boardwalk Recovery Center

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, you already know how difficult it can be. Individuals working on dual diagnosis recovery need support from professionals and from their loved ones.

Fortunately, help is available. Boardwalk Recovery Center is a leading provider of dual diagnosis treatment and recovery services. Our integrated treatment approach addresses both mental health and substance use disorders. We provide comprehensive care to support lasting recovery.

Personalized, Holistic, and Evidence-Based Treatment

Boardwalk Recovery offers personalized and holistic treatment to meet the unique needs of each individual. We also provide ongoing support and aftercare to promote long-term success in recovery.
With a team of experienced professionals and a commitment to compassionate, client-centered care, Boardwalk Recovery Center is an excellent choice for individuals seeking dual diagnosis recovery services.

Reach Out and Begin Healing

There is a better future. For more information about our treatment services, contact us today at 858.888.0101 or
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