12-step approaches for the dually diagnosed: mechanisms of change. Academic Article Review uri icon


  • Existing data indicate that 12-step program involvement is associated with improved outcomes in the dually diagnosed, but there are questions concerning the magnitude and mechanisms of this effect in various dually diagnosed populations.Publications identified in a comprehensive review of the literature pertaining to 12-step programs and patients with addictions and co-occurring psychiatric disorders were reviewed for any content relevant to understanding the process of change involving dually diagnosed patients involved with 12-step programs.Dually diagnosed individuals attend 12-step programs at rates comparable to the nondually diagnosed, although specific diagnoses may have some effect on attendance. The benefits of 12-step attendance do not appear to be markedly different for those with psychiatric disorders. Specialized 12-step programs could have benefits for the dually diagnosed over and above those of traditional 12-step programs. Existing data suggest that nonspecific change mechanisms (self-efficacy, social support) are similar to those found in the general AA literature.Based on existing data, the change mechanisms are broadly similar to those found in the general 12-step literature, but additional factors related to mental illness may also play a significant role. Further work is necessary to test the components of this model and to achieve a firm empirical foundation for understanding the processes of 12-step recovery in the dually diagnosed.

publication date

  • October 2007