Support groups are essential to many mental health and addiction recovery programs. It is not uncommon for support groups to be included as a component of a primary addiction treatment program or as a vital element for ongoing aftercare and relapse prevention programs.
What are Recovery Support Groups?
Recovery support groups are vital aspects of all drug and alcohol addiction treatment and recovery stages. Support groups, also called peer support groups, are generally led by a leader who is a trained counselor, social worker, or peer leader. Support groups complement the recovery process by providing a supportive environment where you can form and maintain relationships with like-minded peers who share the same recovery and sobriety goals. Developing these relationships during the early and often most challenging days of addiction recovery offer a source of friendship and support when you face relapse triggers and other challenges to your sobriety.
What are the Benefits of Support Groups?
There are many benefits to participating in a peer support group. As part of a support group, you share similar experiences with the other group participants. Many group members have shared similar successes and failures on their individual journey to sobriety. Also, group members often share similar experiences with the medical, emotional, and behavioral consequences of ongoing drug or alcohol addiction.
Another key benefit to support groups is reduced isolation and loneliness. Many who are newly sober experience challenges related to the pain and loneliness of isolation. It is not uncommon for recovering addicts to have very few members of their former social circles who share in their newfound sobriety. When a recovering addict feels isolated, it can worsen depression and anxiety, leading to potential relapse. Recovery support groups can help recovering addicts realize they are not alone and reduce feelings of loneliness.
Are There Different Types of Support Groups?
There are several different types of support groups. While many are built on similar foundations, each has unique differences that make a particular group more beneficial than another for its participants. Examples of support groups include:
Well-known 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are widely available throughout the United States and worldwide. AA and NA groups are based on the familiar and proven effective original 12-steps set forth by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous more than 80 years ago. Programs based on the 12-steps often have a spiritual component and define Recovery as ongoing abstinence from substances. Group members track how long it has been since they last used drugs or drank.
SMART Recovery is a secular program. The idea of a “higher power” being key to sobriety does not apply to these programs. It is not uncommon for the spiritual foundation of a traditional 12-step program to be uncomfortable for some. SMART recovery groups are built on the foundation and premise that “changing thought patterns to address triggers and encourages aligning behaviors with personal values.” SMART recovery groups actively promote self-reliance and self-empowerment (rather than reliance on a higher power) while educating members about the harmful effects of addiction.
Another critical difference between SMART Recovery and 12-step programs is that SMART Recovery does not utilize sponsors, prayers, discussions of a higher power, or being powerless against your addiction. SMART Recovery also allows for medication use by participants who are part of a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. Traditional 12-step programs (generally) do not view medications as an allowable part of addiction recovery.
In addition to the well-known recovery support groups, several other options may meet more specialized or personal needs. It is crucial to choose a group where you feel safe and supported. Doing so will ensure you feel comfortable engaging during group sessions. In addition to AA, NA, and Smart Recovery, groups are available for specific demographics, including gender-specific groups, LGBTQ+, first responders, veterans, working professionals, teens, and several others.
How to Find the Best Support Group For Your Needs
Overcoming addiction is a journey unique to the individual. However, it is not uncommon to feel isolated and alone as you continue to work on your sobriety. At our Laguna Beach rehab, our clients receive comprehensive inpatient treatment in Southern California.