Support groups of all different types exist to assist those who are in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, to provide assistance to those struggling with behavioral disorders, and to offer grief support or to help in various other ways. Studies show that mutual support can significantly improve the chances for individuals in early recovery to remain clean and sober. The most common of these groups for those struggling with addiction are the 12-step support options found worldwide such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
Why Are Support Groups so Important?
Staying healthy, sober and in control during the early stages of recovery can be a challenge. Emotional support through self-help groups plays a key role in the recovery process. In fact, studies show that individuals who actively participate in a support group during their recovery are more likely to remain sober, feel good and maintain positive physical health and wellness as compared to those who do not receive peer support.
Support groups and self-help programs provide the following major benefits to those in recovery:
- Ongoing support after the average treatment program of 90-days has ended
- A step by step approach that allows gradual introduction into sober living routines
- A supportive environment that is conducive to properly transitioning into a sober lifestyle
- Social support that is conducive to continued healing and abstinence.
Common Types of Support Groups
So what are the types of support groups that are available to assist you or your loved on in recovery? Most addiction treatment programs initially provide group therapy as a means of support that is immediately accessible to those in need. During these early stages of recovery, support is received from peers in a treatment setting, generally either during residential care or in the outpatient facility. Following discharge, continued involvement in a support group is recommended to enhance your recovery goals and to help you remain on the path to sobriety.
Many support groups are spiritual or religious based, but not all of them are. So, even if you aren’t interested in refined spiritual connection or if you are not comfortable with religion, there is a support group that can bring comfort and encouragement to you in your time of need. In fact, many choose to participate in more than one support group because this allows them to actively receive help and encouragement from a larger group of people during a challenging time.
Secular support groups are also found in the recovery field. These groups allow for self-help and support that is not spiritually or religiously guided. Throughout each type of support group there are generally a combination of both open and closed meetings. Open meetings are for anyone interested in learning more about the program or in participating. Closed meetings are ONLY accessible to those who have a desire to quit using drugs or alcohol.
The most common types of support groups include:
Programs such as NA, AA or other anonymous groups offer support to those in recovery worldwide. These support groups feature:
- All 12-step programs are based on the original founding principles of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Addicts are encouraged to take responsibility for their recovery, participate in group meetings and share personal experiences to help others.
- Members are encouraged to work the 12-steps and to help new members in working the steps.
SMART is a support group that features a point program that is applied to various addictions. These groups feature:
- Face-to-face meetings as well as online support.
- Support and guidance in identifying drug or alcohol addiction as a learned behavior that can be unlearned or modified using a series of points.
- Learning to build motivation personally.
- Learning how to live a balanced lifestyle.
- Learning how to cope with urges to abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Learning how to manage thoughts and behaviors associated with addiction.
Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)
Also known as Save Our Selves, SOS offers an alternative to the religious elements often found in 12-step support groups. This program of support features the guiding belief principles that sobriety must take first priority in the individual’s life. Features of this support group include:
- Being open and honest about experiences.
- Making choices to live healthy, non-destructive lives.
- Staying anonymous and keeping the information shared in meetings private.
- Keeping an open mind about addiction related theories and treatment.
Finding the Right Support Group
If you’re not sure what type of support group will work for you, consider the following questions which may help you make a decision:
- What support group offerings are readily available in my community or near my place of employment?
- Will I feel comfortable receiving support both in person and online?
- Can I reasonably attend a support group if it’s not located close to my home?
- What types of meetings are available and are they held during a time that is convenient to me?
- Are meeting formats (open, closed, online, in person, etc) acceptable to my needs?
- Are the principles of the support group a reflection of my beliefs?
- Will my anonymity be respected?
- Are there fees associated and if so, can I afford those fees?
- How does the support group integrate with my current treatment and recovery plan?
In major cities, you will find a wide range of support groups being offered to assist you in your recovery efforts. Likewise, smaller towns may have limited access to groups. Most cities and towns feature AA and NA groups as these are common around the world.