Guiding principles of working with clients with comorbidity

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Key Points

  • When working with clients with comorbid mental health conditions, it is recommended that AOD services and AOD workers take the following principles into consideration:
    • First, do no harm.
    • Work within your capacity.
    • Engage in ongoing professional development.
    • Recognise that the management of comorbidity is part of AOD workers’ core business.
    • Provide equity of access to care.
    • Adopt a ‘no wrong door’ policy.
    • Recognise that comorbidity is common and that all clients should be routinely screened for comorbid conditions.
    • Conduct ongoing monitoring of symptoms and assessment of client outcomes.
    • Adopt a holistic approach.
    • Adopt a client-centred approach.
    • Emphasise the collaborative nature of treatment.
    • Have realistic expectations.
    • Express confidence in the effectiveness of the treatment program.
    • Adopt a non-judgemental attitude.
    • Adopt a non-confrontational approach to treatment.
    • Involve families and carers in treatment.
    • Consult and collaborate with other health care providers.
    • Ensure continuity of care.


When working with clients with comorbid mental health conditions, it is recommended that AOD services and AOD workers take the following principles into consideration. AOD services need to provide the infrastructure, policy, and systems support for AOD workers to put these principles into practice. The implementation of these principles may help to engage the client in treatment, enhance the therapeutic alliance, and increase the likelihood of improved client outcomes.