Co-Occurring Disorders: Treatment

By: JoAnn Kukulus, M.S. Clinical Psychology
BBS Registered Intern at Adolescent Counseling Services

Part II of blog series on Co-Occurring Disorders
Read Part I: Co-Occurring Disorders: Diagnosis

Regardless of which issue presented first, mental health or alcohol/substance abuse, recovery depends on acknowledging and treating both the alcohol/substance abuse and the mental health issue. The most successful treatment approach is an integrated one in which alcohol/substance abuse and mental health issues are addressed simultaneously.

There is hope. Recovery from co-occurring disorders requires time, commitment, and courage. It may take months or even years, but individuals struggling with mental health issues and alcohol/substance abuse can and do get better.

Combined treatment is best. Integrated treatment has proven to be the most effective for long-term recovery; this entails receiving both mental health and addiction treatment from the same provider or team.

Relapses are part of the recovery process. Relapse does not equal defeat. Slips and setbacks are part of the process and mean hard work is necessary to recommit to sobriety and mental wellness in order to move forward with recovery.

Peer support can help. There are support/self-help groups for just about every condition (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous may be the most well-known), and the opportunity to meet other individuals who are experiencing similar struggles is highly valuable.


Self-help for co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis is at your fingertips!

Recovery tip 1: Recognize and manage overwhelming stress and emotions

  • Learn how to manage stress in healthy ways, without alcohol or substances.
  • Become familiar with triggers and have an action plan; it’s important to be aware of signs that your mental health issues are flaring up or that you are at risk for abusing alcohol and/or substances and know what you will do to prevent relapse

Recovery tip 2: Stay connected

  • Get therapy and/or stay involved in a support group.
  • Follow doctor’s orders; always consult with your doctor/health care provider before making any medication or treatment changes.

Recovery tip 3: Make healthy lifestyle changes

  • Practice relaxation techniques, for example, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing; these techniques can help reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression and increase feelings of emotional well-being.
  • Adopt healthy eating habits
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep


The Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment (ASAT) Program at Adolescent Counseling Services addresses both alcohol/substance abuse and mental health issues, includes clients in the decision-making process and expects clients to be actively involved in setting goals and developing strategies for change, provides basic education about the areas of concern and their related issues, and focuses treatment on learning healthy coping skills and strategies to eliminate substance use, manage emotions, and strengthen relationships. The ASAT team of clinicians holds a deep understanding that continued recovery depends on achieving and maintaining mental wellness, learning and practicing healthy coping skills, and making positive and appropriate decisions when confronted with life challenges

Contact Adolescent Counseling Services’ Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program to schedule your assessment at 650.424.0852 ext 104 or

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