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Types of Support Groups
Once addiction treatment is over, it can be difficult to return to daily life with the ever-present risk of relapse. To help people manage this challenge, many addiction rehab programs include aftercare in their treatment plans, providing tools and support for those who might have a higher risk of relapse to adjust and continue their focus on recovery.
Each individual is different, and sometimes, different approaches to life lead to different needs in aftercare support. However, the individual may not be sure where to look for the support group that might best meet that person’s unique needs. The following list of support groups and options may help people to figure out what type of support group might be most effective under those personal circumstances.
A more in-depth look at these groups is presented below.
Alcoholics Anonymous – known as AA – is the original addiction recovery support group. This is the organization that developed the 12-Step program that is so commonly used by addiction support groups and treatment programs around the world. Because so many addiction treatment programs now use the 12-Step program, it can be beneficial to continue aftercare in a 12-Step support group.
AA was created specifically to help people who struggle with alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Those who have emerged from alcohol addiction treatment might find the most support in this program through the other members, all of whom share issues with the same substance. The commonality of experience can provide targeted guidance and support for those who are trying to remain abstinent from alcohol.
This can be important because alcohol is considered by most of our culture to be an acceptable substance to use on an occasional basis. Because it can be found everywhere, this particular substance can be harder than others to avoid. Joining an AA support group can be motivating and supportive, as other members provide tips and ideas on how to remain abstinent and sober in this challenging situation.
Similar to AA, Narcotics Anonymous is a 12-Step program that helps people who are dealing with recovery. However, despite the name, NA does not focus on one drug type alone. In fact, they also include alcoholics in their support group programs.
With the philosophy that addiction is addiction no matter the substance, the NA program is designed to help people come to terms with the fact of their addiction and get the support, information, and motivation to remain free of substance use. This makes it a great group for aftercare following treatment, because NA can continue providing the guidance based on the 12-Step model that so many treatment centers use, allowing for continuity between treatment and aftercare.
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There are a number of other substance-specific groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous, Nicotine Anonymous, or Crystal Meth Anonymous. These groups all provide support based on the experience of the members who have used the same substance. For those who feel that they need help directed from this type of shared experience, these organizations might be helpful.
A large number of similar types of groups exist. If the individual feels that support might be best based on the specific drug type, talking to treatment center personnel about available groups specific to that drug is a great first step.
For those with specific religious connections, there are support groups that provide programs based on spiritual beliefs. These types of groups range from Jewish groups to various Christian denominations to cultural and spiritual support groups like White Bison for Native Americans.
Some individuals are more likely to feel supported and motivated if the support group is working from this spiritual or cultural context. Many 12-Step programs are based in Christian theology; while they work to avoid feeling exclusive to those religious groups, there are those who might be more comfortable not working in that context. For those individuals, these spiritually and culturally based groups may offer a more welcoming environment.
Spiritual or cultural community leaders may be able to provide insight into these programs. Treatment centers may also have resources about where to find groups like these.
Some women emerging from treatment have a history of trauma that may be based in relationships with men. If this is the case, these women may feel intimidated by the idea of joining support groups that include both sexes. For these women, groups like Women For Sobriety might be more comfortable for aftercare post treatment. This group provides support that is specific to women’s issues and the societal structures that may lead a woman to become addicted.
For men who prefer to be in a men-only group, talking to treatment center professionals or support group organizations may help them to locate specific groups that have male members only.
Similarly, for those who may feel uncomfortable in a program that has any sort of religious overtone, or those who would like to find an alternative to a 12-Step program, there are alternative programs such as SMART Recovery or Secular Organizations for Sobriety. These organizations may have a different philosophy about addiction recovery that is not necessarily in line with the 12-Step movement, but that some people may find more motivating and helpful in avoiding relapse after treatment has been completed.
For those who have a higher risk of relapse after leaving a formal treatment program, there are some aftercare support options that may be more helpful in easing the transition back to daily living. These include sober houses and other transitional living groups that can provide abstinence support, group sessions, and a strict no-substance policy.
The group support is present because others in similar situations are living in the same community. Housemates have regular house meetings, work together to maintain living conditions, and keep each other accountable for sobriety. The individuals living in these homes can also be involved in external support groups, doubling the supportive social network.
Research in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs demonstrates that these living situations can improve outcomes for relapse avoidance.
One other type of group that can provide aftercare support involves those people whom the individual was in treatment with and others who have been in the same program. Some treatment centers provide alumni programs that offer annual gatherings and other events for people who have been through the program. This type of support group doesn’t meet as regularly, but can be a source of continued connection to the treatment methodology and to the professionals and others with whom the person completed rehab, providing motivation, understanding, and resources on continuing to maintain sobriety in the long-term. Individuals should ask about these types of programs when selecting a treatment center. Knowing that there is a built-in source of support after treatment can make it easier to complete rehab and look forward to recovery.
Regardless of the type of support group that is selected, it is the individual’s motivation to achieve and maintain recovery that is the key to avoiding relapse and creating a more positive future. Social support is another enhancement that can help the person hold on to this motivation and continue on the path to recovery.
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