Co-Occurring Disorders

Individuals with mental health disorders often do not have just a single condition. The term dual diagnosis has recently been replaced with the term co-occurring substance use disorder. Co-occurring Disorders refer to two ore more mental health or substance use conditions. People with co-occurring conditions can be difficult to work with until strategies are learned for coping with the conditions. Below are some of the well-known strategies to help therapists support individuals with co-occurring disorders.

Recovery Tips for Patients with Co-Occurring Disorders

Maintain a recovery perspective.

Recovery is a lifelong process which varies for every individual which may include working a 12-step program or actively working towards a goal. It may also imply changes in overall healthy lifestyle including physical and mental health self-care. Recovery does not just solely refer to change in substance use, it is also a change in an unhealthy way of living. Markers such as improved health, better ability to care for one’s self and develop self-worth or independence are indicators of progress in recovery.


Manage countertransference.

Transference is when a person projects his or her feelings onto the counselor and countertransference happens when the counselor reflects his or her feelings onto the individual. Both people, in essence, become a mirror of self-reflection on one another and have potential to reflect negative energy. Therapists, therefore, must recognize and manage proper self-care.


Monitor psychiatric symptoms.

When working with an individual who has two or more co-occurring disorders, it is important to be aware of the entire medication and treatment plan. If a person has a history of substance abuse, it is important for the counselor to be present at therapeutic sessions and vice versa. A multidisciplinary team is needed to help counsel a person with a co-occurring disorder. It may also mean having a standardized system to monitor symptoms and changes in symptoms at regular intervals.


Use supportive and emphatic counseling.

Empathy is the foundation of patient care. It is important to keep an unbiased and healthy outlook on the individual and approaches to treatment. Nonjudgmental communication, a supportive environment, positive reinforcement and listening are all important skills to encompass empathy.


Employ culturally appropriate methods.

Understanding individual cultural needs can dramatically help in care of people particularly around interpersonal interactions and family values. Some cultures may want the family actively involved in treatment while other cultures are more independent. A person from India adopted by American parents, for instance, may know little of cultural practices in the birth country but it is important to still recognize the birth country and discover what association means to the individual.


Hired Power strives to provide the best individualized assistance and resources. People who are struggling with addictions or co-occurring disorders are encouraged to contact us for information on how we can support your journey of recovery.