Development of a positive group intervention for coexisting problems: A mixed methods study




Substance misuse commonly coexists with psychological disorder (dual diagnosis) making the problems more complex and the symptoms augmented with far-reaching negative consequences. Despite the wide range of support that treats both problems, clients often relapse. This study was the first empirical attempt to investigate how positive psychology can facilitate recovery by not focusing merely on the disorders but exploring and enhancing the positive aspects of clients’ lives moving them toward optimal human functioning. A mixed methods approach was applied to test a 12-week positive group intervention in two groups of service users (n=10) with coexisting disorders at an outpatient addiction service to explore the feasibility and acceptability of a positive approach in their recovery. Participants seemed to have benefitted from the programme, all positive concepts were found relevant, and the intervention was found feasible and acceptable by service users. It was concluded that a strengths-based positive approach has the potential to serve as a useful adjunct to the treatment of coexisting problems. Implications for treatment are discussed in terms of how positive psychology may be helpful in long-term recovery by providing alternative strategies to cope with mental illness and a substitute for the love, nurturing, and belonging that substances appear to offer to individuals.

Author Biographies

Katalin Ujhelyi Gomez, University of Bolton

Dr Katalin Ujhelyi Gomez is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Liverpool. She received a first class Bachelor’s degree in Counselling and Psychology from the University of Bolton in 2015. She completed her PhD at the same university in 2019 on the application of positive psychology to dual diagnosis recovery. It is her aim to conduct further research in the fields of positive psychology and coexisting disorders and to qualify as a therapist with the intent to pursue a career working with people with a comorbidity of substance misuse and mental health problems.

Jerome Carson, University of Bolton

Professor Jerome Carson is Professor of Psychology at the University of Bolton. He did his first degree in Psychology at the University of Reading, graduating in 1979. He completed his Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of East London in 1994. His PhD was awarded in 2005 for a thesis on occupational stress in mental health professionals. Jerome worked in the NHS for 32 years, before taking up his present post in 2012. His research interests are happiness and wellbeing, positive psychology, and recovery from mental health problems.

Gill Brown, University of Bolton

Dr Gill Brown is an Associate Teaching Professor in Psychology at the University of Bolton. Prior to her academic career, she worked within the prison service, providing psychological services to offenders. She also has experience working within youth offending services and alongside forensic community mental health teams. Her PhD focused on the effectiveness of a joint crisis planning intervention for service users with severe mental illness, in reducing compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act. Current research interests span forensic and mental health topics, with a particular interest in disparities in mental health service needs and treatment provision for ethnic minority groups.


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How to Cite

Ujhelyi Gomez, K., Carson, J., & Brown, G. (2021). Development of a positive group intervention for coexisting problems: A mixed methods study. Groupwork, 29(3).