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People who are in recovery for a substance use disorder or some other type of addiction, such as a compulsive gambling issue, often turn to recovery support groups for help in both short-term and long-term recovery. Recovery support groups are forms of social support; they are not formal treatment programs. This is because most of these groups do not employ the services of professional and licensed therapists or other treatment providers but are instead comprised of other individuals in recovery who have the same or similar issues. The members meet to discuss their recovery and to help and support each other.
These groups offer a number of advantages.
When choosing a recovery support group, it is important to keep the above advantages in mind and choose a group that maximizes these given one’s personal convictions, beliefs, and needs. Several considerations should be taken into account regarding the type of support group one chooses.
The goal is to maximize the benefits of the support group by choosing one that is a good fit. This is not to say that an individual should not attempt to explore different options, such as groups with different philosophies regarding the existence of a higher power (e.g. God or some other power), spirituality, science-based approaches, etc. However, in the end, the group is of no use to a person if the person does not attend. Attending groups that are in sharp contrast to one’s ethics or level of comfort will most likely not be productive.
By far, the most common form of recovery support group is the 12-Step format, and the best known of the 12-Step groups is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is not the only 12-Step group available, but it was the original, and its format is the one that is generally followed at all 12-Step groups. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), all 12-Step groups followed three general principles:
Empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of 12-Step programs is mixed, and a number of sources point to their deficiencies as evidence that they are not empirically sound programs. Nonetheless, a large number of individuals who attend these programs swear by the results. These recovery support groups do offer an important source of peer support and direction for individuals in recovery.
A number of different types of 12-Step groups focused at specific issues exist, including:
In addition, there are a number of 12-Step programs that are available online. While these groups have a specific agenda and program to follow, there are many members who regularly attend these groups strictly for the support aspect of the meetings and do not get a sponsor.
12-Step meetings often follow a specific format and have specific opening and closing rituals that include prayers. The meetings typically run for about an hour, although the time can be variable depending on what happens in the meeting.
Groups are generally supported by donations. Most individuals donate $1 per meeting; however, donations are not required, and people who do not donate are not singled out in any manner. These programs also provide literature for members and prospective members, which is reasonably priced.
12-Step group meetings are categorized in the following way:
12-Step groups are the most common recovery support groups available; however, there are options for individuals who are not interested in this form. These include:
A number of recovery support group options are available in most major urban areas. Choosing a recovery support group that one will attend on a regular basis is the most important consideration, as the major benefit these groups provide is pure support. Other considerations can be made based on the availability of support groups in a particular area. Many groups now offer online meetings, offering increased accessibility to potential members.