Peer Support Groups in Addiction Recovery

Addiction and its underlying related mental health conditions place great pressure on recovering individuals —physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Although these pressures are addressed, treated, and supported during an inpatient stay at a rehab center, once the individual graduates from a treatment program, he or she is vulnerable and still in need of support. That is why one of the key success factors in sustaining recovery is the engagement with addiction support groups for peers in recovery. 

After treatment and no longer having daily individual and group therapy sessions, addiction support groups made out of peers becomes an anchor where individuals in early recovery can continue to develop the skills necessary for attaining healthier and productive lives. An addiction support group for peers in addiction recovery is in many ways a freeing experience. Thus, recovering individuals realize that they are not alone and hope and trust develop and grow among its participants.

How It Works

Addiction support groups use trained peers as supporters or friends. That way they can give social and emotional assistance and create a trusting and safe environment. However, peer support might also take place between non-trained peers, for example, between the visitors of a program. The aim of peer support programs is to strengthen:

  • self-esteem
  • self-control
  • coping
  • problem-solving skills

Sound discharge planning includes the recommendation of attending addiction support groups for peers in recovery. People shouldn’t overlook these types of interactions as well-meaning relatives and friends who have not experienced addiction could provide the level of support found in recovery peer groups.

What Is Peer Support?

Have you ever had a new experience or been to a new event and felt that there didn’t seem to be many people similar to you? Did you ever feel like you don’t have the same background or ideas as the other people in the group you’re in? 

Maybe you’ve talked to someone who hasn’t had the same experiences as you and they say “I know how you feel.” Inside, you’re probably thinking, “How can they know how I feel if they haven’t gone through it themselves?” This thought is what brought about peer support services.

Non-Clinical Support

Addiction support groups for peers feature the provision of non-clinical peer support. This can include activities that engage, educate, and support people as they make the changes necessary to recover from substance use disorders. 

Peers can offer guidance by sharing their own experiences recovering from substance use disorders (SUDs). Peers in addiction support groups can also help individuals with substance use disorders address their particular needs while early in recovery. Among them are improving social connections and identifying new positive social situations.

SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has defined peer support groups as support groups that include people who share common life experiences with the people they help. Addiction support groups for peers have proved to be an effective service for recovery from drug abuse as well as other behavioral health conditions. 

Importance of Support Groups

Peer support groups make excellent recovery tools because peer support specialists have been through the same experiences as the other people in recovery. Thus, an addiction support group for peers is able to find that commonality within its members and instructors that builds trust and allows the members to grow. 

Addiction support group programs realize that people go through times of stress and sometimes need the support of a friend or a peer. Peer support groups for drug addicts and people with alcohol use disorders provide early intervention strategies during stressful times by making the process of seeking help more normal and automatic. 

Keeping Recovery First

Peer support groups keep the idea of “keeping recovery first” by meeting people where they are in their recovery process as they help people with SUDs along their treatment and recovery journeys. 

Addiction support groups involve peer providers in all parts of their programs, including:

  • The nature of the program’s structure
  • Leadership
  • Strategies of the services offers

Peer providers fill a gap that frequently exists in both formal and informal treatment. It does this by focusing on recovery first and then helping to rebuild and reinvent the people’s communities and lives.

Studies that evaluated the effectiveness of peer support groups for people with SUDs found that such groups contain: 

  • better relationships with providers and social supports
  • reduced relapse rates
  • members with more satisfaction with overall treatment
  • increased times spent in treatment

3 Types of Addiction Support Groups for Peers for Recovering Individuals

There are three key types of addiction support groups for peers that people in addiction recovery can attend. These three groups include:

Mutual Self-Help Groups 

Alcohol-related disorders are very common in the U.S. In fact, approximately 30% of Americans meet the diagnostic standards for an alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some time in their lives. AUDs are also chronic conditions that require several episodes of care over many years to achieve full recovery. 

The professional health care system provides a combination of medication and behavioral interventions to try to deal with the disease of addiction, but it is a struggle. In recognition of the struggle to keep these problems in check by the medical profession, peer-run, mutual self-help groups (MHGs) such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) developed and grew rapidly over the past 75 years. 

In spite of the considerable advances in pharmacological and behavioral treatments for substance use disorders (SUDs), these MHGs continue to play an important role in helping millions of Americans achieve their recovery goals. As a result, MHGs are the most commonly wanted source of help for alcohol and drug-use disorders in the United States.

Why Try an MHG?

MHG members run these self-help groups themselves, usually in rented locations, and without professional involvement. And unlike professional interventions, individuals can attend MHGs as intensively and for as long as they want. There is no need for an insurance company to approve you or to reveal any personal identification. 

Another benefit of mutual self-help groups is that people typically have access to such groups during times when they are at higher risk for relapses, such as weekends and evenings. The aim of peer-run programs is to improve the quality of support available to individuals seeking recovery from mental health or SUDs. 

3 Principles of Mutual Help Groups (MHGs)

They are based on three core principles:

Based on the assumption that all participants have something to offer in recovery. Those in recovery work in groups to: 

  1. share their stories
  2. provide their personal input
  3. support each other as they progress in recovery

Peer Support Specialists 

Peer Recovery Support Specialists are people who are also in recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs) or co-occurring mental health disorders. The experiences that such people have had in life and in recovery make them uniquely able to provide support in a way that other people can benefit from. 

Some of the roles filled by peer support specialists include:

  • Helping peers express their goals for recovery
  • learning and practicing new skills
  • Helping peers monitor their progress
  • setting an example of effective coping methods
  • teaching self-help strategies based on their own experiences
  • supporting peers in speaking up for themselves to obtain services
  • developing and putting recovery plans into practice

Four Benefits of Peer Support Specialists:

  1. the specialist (an expert in recovery) can offer one-on-one guidance regularly with an addict
  2. Other staff members can interact with those in need by being present. They can also keep an open ear to the addicts’ needs.
  3. They provide visible role models for people to be able to follow in their footsteps
  4. Anecdotes of real-life experiences and challenges

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recognized peer support services as an evidence-based practice. Furthermore, it has ensured that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would pay for peer support services. As long as peer support specialists were governed by a statewide training and credentialing program. The same as other types of healthcare providers.

Peer-Run Programs  

Peer-run programs incorporate non-profit organizations that are run by individuals who use behavioral health services. They are governed by a majority peer board and may receive private or government funding. 

The staff of these programs is made out of people who have experienced recovery first-hand. It especially promotes personal recovery by directly communicating with the recovering addicts, and helping them create positive platforms for their future. Peer-run organizations include:

  • Consumer operated services
  • Recovery community organizations
  • Peer drop-in centers
  • Clubhouses

The aim of peer-run programs is to improve the quality of support available to individuals seeking recovery from mental health or SUDs. They are based on three core principles:

  1. A recovery vision 
  2. Speaking truthfully
  3. Accountability to the recovery community

Basically, peer-run groups are responsive to the needs of the group members. Peer support groups are based on local needs that have been identified by the people participating. Individuals in addiction support groups for peers have active and important roles in laying the foundation for a sustained recovery. As a result, peer support group members promote the sharing of personal experiences and knowledge. 

Finding Treatment and Beyond

In most cases, peer support groups don’t replace the need for formal treatment or supervision, professional clinical guidance. This happens due to peers not having enough training to manage psychiatric conditions or high-risk situations. However, addiction support groups for peers still offer an enhancement to treatment. Such an enhancement to treatment offers many benefits to people with substance use disorders.

If you or a loved one needs professional treatment for a SUD, whether it’s to alcohol or illicit drugs, here at Florida Center for Recovery, we are here to get you on that initial path to recovery. We will design a treatment program specifically for you and with your input. 

When you are ready to leave your formal treatment here, you will be prepared to get the most out of any peer group. You’ll also be prepared to get the most out of life again. Contact us today–the sooner you start, the sooner you get back to a fulfilling life.