THE POWER OF
Can positive psychology help to treat
dual diagnosis? Katalin Ujhelyi,
Jerome Carson and Ioanna Melidou
share results of a new study
eople with dual diagnosis – co-occurring substance misuse and mental
health issues – have complex needs. The duality of their disorders gives
augmented symptoms, leaving clients particularly vulnerable and with
poorer treatment outcomes. They require the most support, but in fact
receive the least, according to Turning Point’s recent Dual dilemma report.
The unmet need of those with coexisting problems was the reason for
developing a new treatment programme, within the scope of a PhD research
project conducted at the University of Bolton, in collaboration with Lifeline Project.
The project involved a group of participants with dual diagnosis issues who
attended the Bolton Integrated Drugs and Alcohol Service (BIDAS).
Traditionally, psychology has been preoccupied with what is wrong with us and
concentrated on trying to repair it. Positive psychology, on the other hand, is the
science of positive aspects of human life and looks for what is right with people. It
explores positive experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions
(Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
The field is not intended to replace traditional approaches, but to draw on the
findings and methodologies of psychology in general and make it more
representative of the human experience (Seligman et al, 2005). According to
Seligman’s PERMA Model of positive psychology, wellbeing or flourishing stands on
five pillars: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and
accomplishment (Seligman, 2011; http://bit.ly/2gD2Vwl).
sense of accomplishment
Figure 1: Seligman’s PERMA Model of Flourishing.
14 | drinkanddrugsnews | December 2016
Positive psychology has been successfully applied in addiction recovery, as well
as in the treatment of mental illnesses. However, there is a lack of research relating
to dual diagnosis.
Applied to addiction, it can be seen in three areas associated with ‘the pleasant
life’ (positive emotions about the past, present, and future); ‘the engaged life’
(having positive traits that are necessary for full engagement, such as hope); and
‘the meaningful life’ (service to, and membership of, positive entities such as
family, workplace, Alcoholics Anonymous).
Positive interventions aim to increase positive feelings, behaviours, and
cognitions rather than working on pathology and maladaptive thoughts and
behaviours (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). According to positive psychology, a lack of
mental illness does not automatically mean you have a happy life. While the aim of
traditional psychology is to treat mental illness, positive psychology gives a hand to
this traditional approach but in addition helps people move beyond survival to
achieve their full potential and flourish.
The new programme – developed by the University of Bolton and Lifeline Project,
within the scope of a PhD research project – is providing dual diagnosis clients with
an opportunity to increase their wellbeing. It