Objective: People dually diagnosed with substance abuse and mental illnesses often feel alienated at traditional 12-step meetings, yet they need the peer support provided by such groups. Dual Diagnosis Anonymous (DDA) is a peer-support program specifically for people with co-occurring disorders, which addresses many of the factors that members find alienating about traditional 12-step groups. This study aimed to elicit first-person perspectives on DDA. Methods: Occupational therapy students conducted 13 focus groups with 106 DDA members in three settings: the community (6 groups, n = 36), correctional facilities (5 groups, n = 53), and the state psychiatric hospital (2 groups, n = 17). Researchers inductively analyzed focus group transcripts to identify prominent themes. Results: The vast majority of participants were between the ages of 18 and 49 (n = 87, 82.1%) and were non-Hispanic/White (n = 82, 77.4%). Most participants had been using substances for more than 10 years and had been diagnosed with a mental illness for more than 10 years. The most common substance of choice among those in the community and corrections setting was multiple substances, while those in the state hospital identified alcohol most often. Bipolar disorder was the most common mental illness diagnosis among participants in the state hospital, but depression and anxiety were the two most common diagnoses in the community and corrections participants. Four primary themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: (1) feeling accepted by others in the group, (2) acceptance within the group of mental illness and substance abuse together, (3) the structure of DDA meetings compared to other 12-step meetings, and (4) a focus on hope and recovery from both illnesses. Conclusions: DDA provides a helpful alternative for individuals who do not feel comfortable at traditional 12-step groups due to their mental illness. Members value the acceptance, understanding, discussion, and hope in DDA meetings.
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