Research on addiction treatment and recovery finds that individuals feel more comfortable dealing with complex issues when they are in groups made up primarily of their peers. More treatment facilities are offering specialized treatment programs for women, men and other specific demographic groups in order to serve their unique needs. This peer support strategy can offer better rates of success in overcoming alcohol and drug addiction.
Unique Benefits of Peer Support
The concept of peer support during and after treatment has become popular because it offers practical benefits for individuals who are doing the difficult work of rebuilding their lives after addiction. Peers can offer assistance to each other in four different areas:1
- Emotional support – Peers often have a good understanding of the emotional responses and needs of the individual and can provide feedback in language that is most meaningful to the individual.
- Informational support – Peers can share knowledge and information on a lateral level that circumvents problems with resistance to authority.
- Instrumental support – Peers can also offer practical help learning new skills that can be shared with other people, a process that increases self-esteem and feelings of competence.
- Affiliational support – Interactions with peers on a regular basis creates a feeling of belonging to a group that can be relied upon to help with problems, and a place where their unique qualities can help others.
How Peer Support Recovery Is Organized
Peer recovery support groups are generally organized along similar lines. They are often utilized in a group home facility that provides residential care after a treatment program has ended. They provide a peer leader that serves not as an authoritarian figure, but as a peer that ensures that the rules are followed by residents and the structure of the facility is maintained as intended.
Counseling and behavior therapy are available to residents to manage the problems involved in rebuilding a life after addiction. Residents get together on a regular basis to discuss problems and create ways to assist each other in their daily progress.
Why Peer Support Recovery Works
Peer support recovery groups provide a place where individuals can socialize safely among others who are also working on their sobriety. Individuals can hear the personal stories of their peers and share their own stories. These groups can help to improve social skills and leadership skills while helping others to maintain their sobriety.
Members of the group may be at different levels of recovery and can offer practical advice and real-life information about the best ways to rebuild life after addiction. In groups that provide spiritual support in recovery in addition to other types of assistance, the group experience provides greater spiritual depth for the recovery process.2
The daily issues of recovery can be worked out more effectively among peers who have shared similar life experiences and who can offer appropriate levels of emotional support to sustain sobriety. This special connection with the peer group can be instrumental in providing the sense of belonging that these individuals need after the difficulties they have experienced during addiction.