Peer support groups are a great way to keep you or a loved one on track during and after leaving your treatment program. Peer groups consist of adults who meet on a regular basis to help each other through similar crises. These groups are led by a trained facilitator that assists the group in discussing their challenges and experiences.
Peer groups are important as they can be part of your foundation during a successful recovery. These groups let you know that you are not going through recovery alone, hold you accountable, and provide safe and supportive spaces for you to be yourself and talk about your experiences without judgment.
Examples of Peer Groups:
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
- Al-Anon Family Groups
- Co-Dependents Anonymous
- Families Anonymous
- Parents of Addicted Loved Ones
There are many peer groups to choose from that can help you during your journey. In addition, there are also peer groups available for the friends and loved ones of those who are in recovery.
You can find out more information here on support groups that may be helpful for you or your loved ones.
When Should You Join a Peer Group?
There is no right or wrong time to join a peer group. During your recovery journey, your health professionals can help you determine when joining a group will aid in your recovery process.
A few things you should consider when considering if joining a group is right for you:
- You are ready to face your challenges and discuss them honestly.
- You are ready to accept help or listen to others going through similar circumstances.
- You are struggling to maintain sobriety alone.
- You have completed residential treatment in a center and require an ongoing plan for recovery success.
This list is not exhaustive. Understanding and accepting that you need help from your peers will help you remain committed to your group.
How Effective Are Peer Groups?
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), peer support is an effective tool for recovery.
Benefits associated with peer groups include:
- Providing a safe and non-judgmental space for communication
- Improving mood and disposition
- Increasing feelings of hopefulness
- Providing a sense of control over one’s circumstances
- Encouraging success
Participation in peer groups helps improve your chances of success while in recovery. These groups can help improve your quality of life by providing an avenue that helps you maintain a sober lifestyle.
All Peer Support Is Not the Same
There is no one-size-fits-all type of peer group meeting or style that suits everyone’s recovery. Everyone’s path to recovery can look different and there are several different ways in which someone can receive peer support.
While many peer support groups are traditional — group meetings with a trained facilitator that leads the group — there are other non-traditional options to consider. These options include:
- Online support: For those that feel comfortable with online meetings and virtual support, which may be a preferred choice as we cope with the pandemic, many of the peer groups now offer dedicated virtual support. You can learn more about these virtual groups here.
- Individualized support: For those that prefer more one-on-one connections over group settings, peer support can also be valuable with a direct connection to a therapist or a peer support worker/peer and recovery support specialist. Individual support will help customize a recovery plan specific to the individual.
In addition, there are peer support group solutions that will incorporate both a group setting and individual support. It is important that you speak with your treatment professionals to find the best solution that fits your needs.
How to Find a Peer Support Group
If your goal is to attend a peer support group in person, many groups are available locally. Help to find resources in your area can be found here. Other ways to find support groups include:
- Online search: You can also search for local health care professionals that cover your area of need (i.e., search health care professionals + addiction + your state). You can also search for specific local peer support groups as well.
- Current physicians: If you have a primary physician or see a medical specialist, ask them for referrals.
- Cell phone apps: There are apps available to also help you find support groups. Visit the appropriate app store for your phone and search for “addiction recovery” and you will find a list of apps for your device. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully to find the apps that will work best for your needs.
Research has shown that peer groups are highly effective when recovering from a substance use disorder. By joining a peer group you know that you are not alone in your journey. These groups allow you to share experiences, challenges, and coping strategies in a safe place.
Keep in mind all groups are not the same and you have options to find a group or treatment that best fits your needs. You can find online groups, or individual therapy if you prefer. Please note that this article does not contain an exhaustive list of support groups, but rather provides examples of support groups that may be helpful.