Support groups usually follow the same general format that involves people sharing their stories of how they came to the program, what their life has been like in the past, how they’ve been since getting sober, and some of their daily struggles or triumphs. A participant who shares that can then receive encouragement and advice from other participants.
Most treatment centers facilitate support groups and consider it a necessity for recovering individuals. Though simple and easy to set up, a peer support group can be a highly effective way to combat isolation, gain emotional support, and restore self-esteem.
What Is the Difference Between Support Groups and Group Therapy?
Peer support groups are a type of group therapy, except that the facilitator does not intervene at the same level as a therapist. Peer support groups are characterized by the process of giving and receiving nonprofessional, nonclinical assistance from people with similar conditions.
Human beings need a community to relate to, belong with, and thrive in. Recovering individuals especially need to be plugged into a community free of judgment and stigmatization. Socializing with people who are also going through recovery provides the best context for collective empathy, knowledge, accountability, solidarity, and healing.
When a peer offers tips on how to cope with cravings, this advice may be more influential than if it came from a clinical therapist. The vulnerability and trust that comes with having experienced similar situations can be conducive to behavioral changes.
Types of Peer Groups
The most common peer support programs include 12-Step programs, sober living homes, and alumni meetings. Most residential treatment plans include the 12-Step process, as it is a major and highly-utilized social model. Research on this modality has revealed positive outcomes including self-efficacy and healthy coping behaviors.
Sober living homes are for people who have achieved sobriety but still need support before transitioning to their home environment after residential treatment. While living in sober homes, people may still go for outpatient treatment while maintaining a job and implementing new life skills around their recovery schedule.
Alumni programs are another type of peer support group. Completing residential treatment or finishing a stay at a sober living home is only the beginning of long-term recovery. Quality aftercare programs keep alumni connected and motivated. They may include regular meetings, sober events, and community service opportunities.
Benefits of Support Groups
Peer support groups have a wide range of health benefits. Gathering a group of people with similar concerns to discuss their progress and problems with each other can be very stimulating and impactful because human beings are social learners. The most apparent benefits of joining a support group include the following:
- A safe and nonjudgmental space to share ideas about recovery
- Knowledge-building through peers who are further along the learning curve of a certain condition who can help others understand the implications and how to manage the roadblocks
- Mutual sharing of advice and tips on relapse prevention which involves stress management, relationship management, and other complex aspects
- A sense of connection and belonging to a larger community
- A sense of control in life after witnessing others’ success
Should I Join a Support Group Even if I Am Doing Well in Recovery?
Even if an individual feels secure in their recovery now, it does not mean that they will not have challenges in the future. In this changing world, recovering individuals may need social support as a buffer from unexpected events. A peer support group can also provide extra personal accountability.
Those who have confidence in maintaining sobriety for the long term could consider peer support groups as the place they can give back to the community. These individuals’ presence as success stories and people to go to for advice may help many individuals. Contributing to the community in this way can also be beneficial to their own well-being because it can provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Where to Find a Support Group
Individuals who have gone through residential treatment can begin by attending their treatment facility’s alumni group meetings. Healthcare providers may have information about other local options. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many support groups now meet online. These online groups can also be great options for those who don’t want to or can’t commute, or for those who don’t jive with local groups.
Once individuals decide to be part of a peer support group, they should follow any community agreements and commit to regular meetings. If anyone has questions about the process or topics of discussion, they can ask the facilitators.
Joining a peer support group is not the place to start getting sober because they are not a substitute for a quality rehab program. Support groups should be a complement to traditional detox and rehab.
When in recovery, you need all the social support you can get, which is why peer support groups are a necessity. You can share with others who are going through similar struggles without feeling judged. From 12-Step groups to alumni meetings, there are plenty of options to suit your needs. Your ongoing recovery depends on getting and staying involved in the process. If you are looking for a treatment facility with quality programs, Laguna Shores Recovery has all the best options. We provide customized programs to ensure the best treatment for each of our clients. We offer plans that include detox, medication, 12-Step groups, and relationship skills coaching, all of which can greatly enhance your experience on the road to long-term, sustainable recovery. Most of our staff are in recovery themselves, so they know the value of a strong recovery community. Call us at (866) 906-3203.