Addiction Support Groups
There are many different layers to a recovery program. These layers include interventions that may be intensive, formal, and specialized as well as interventions that are less intensive, minimally structured, and informal. It is important to ensure that you are receiving the most effective care based on your specific needs and your stage in the recovery journey.
Support groups are initially accessed during treatment in either inpatient treatment or outpatient treatment settings as a form of group therapy. Though this is where people generally first access support groups, many people continue on with support group meetings after treatment ends. This is a form of aftercare that often goes along with counseling.
Where Support Groups Fit Into The Typical Treatment Model
Addiction is also a disease that requires specific interventions at various points in the path to recovery. Higher levels of care are utilized in the initial stages of recovery, and as you acquire more clean time, the levels gradually lessen in intensity. For example, the initial stage of treatment for many people is detoxification, which is a structured, medically monitored phase of treatment that helps your body safely and effectively detox from substances.
After detoxification, you might expect to be placed in an inpatient treatment program that can last several weeks. Your time is spent learning about addiction and re-learning how to live without the use of substances. In this stage, you would expect to be living with other people who are in the early stage of recovery and attend intensive individual and group therapy. You would not be allowed to leave the premises and a couple of close family members would be able to visit you on a specific day/time allocated by the treatment program.
Residential treatment is usually a 6- to 12-month program that is not a mandatory component in your path to recovery. In residential treatment, you live with other people in early recovery. Here, you could still receive therapy and other structured interventions; however, the environment is less restrictive. You can come and go given you follow the rules of the program, which might include periodic drug testing. Other support services might also be provided, which can include employment and housing assistance.
Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) offer treatment that can follow inpatient and/or residential treatment. In an IOP, you spend approximately 9-12 hours a week in a group setting with other people who have recently completed an inpatient treatment program.
It is important to understand that the interventions identified above are components of a treatment program. Aftercare treatment is a separate component of recovery and is utilized after more formal treatment interventions, like detoxification and inpatient treatment, have been completed.
Support groups fall into the category of aftercare, and while they are invaluable, they are not clinical or formal forms of substance abuse treatment.
Types of Support Groups
Support groups can be thought of as supplemental components to substance abuse treatment. They are not a required component for a treatment plan, yet they can play a vital role in the path to recovery. Support groups can vary, and it is highly likely that you would be able to find a support group that is comprised of your peers. Peer support groups involve providing and receiving informal, nonprofessional advice and feedback from people who are similar to you and experiencing the same struggles in an attempt to achieve long-term recovery from a substance abuse disorder. 1(1st paragraph) They generally last anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes, depending on the group. Support groups can be closed or open; closed groups do not allow new members into the group while open groups allow new participants each week. Many, if not most, support groups are open.
One of the biggest benefits of support groups is that they provide an opportunity for you to learn from other people who have been through similar situations and struggle with similar challenges. That is why it is important to join a support group that is reflective of you. For example, if you are LGBTQ or require a gender-specific support group, they are available to you. Veteran support groups are also available and American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers support groups and substance abuse services specifically for veterans. Support groups can be specific to your cultural, ethnic, gender, and experiential needs.
Support Groups for Families
Addiction doesn’t just impact the person who struggles with substance abuse, it impacts the entire family. While substance abuse isn’t contagious in the medical sense, it’s effects can be unrelenting and devastating for the people who love the person addicted to drugs and alcohol. Watching your loved one become powerless to drugs and alcohol is a very traumatic experience and families require support as well. Groups for families are available to provide support and nonclinical advice to family members of addicted individuals.
Support groups for family members are not the same thing as family therapy and they should not be used in place of formal, structured family therapy. Family therapy’s main purposes are to identify the family’s strengths, use those strengths to develop a substance-free life, and resolve the impact that substance abuse has had on the individual and the family.2 Remember that support groups do not have a professional guiding the group and there is no overarching goal specific to you or your family’s needs. The purpose of support groups is simple; to provide support during a difficult time or situation in life.
Online Addiction Support
It is not surprising that the landscape of support groups has changed substantially over the past several months. Virtual support groups have been around for many years, however, with the emergence of COVID-19 they have become essentially the only platform for support groups. Until we can reconvene in person, virtual support groups are the main option.
Virtual support groups provide a safe space online to receive support from others just as you would receive in person. Many people find virtual support groups easier to attend as it eliminates the social anxiety that comes with going to a new place and meeting new people in person.
American Addiction Centers offers a virtual support group which you can access here.
Alumni Engagement Apps
American Addiction Centers offers online addiction support groups as well as an alumni engagement app that helps you stay connected and provides an additional source of support as you move through your recovery journey post-treatment.
The alumni engagement app keeps you informed of regional and national events and provides you with up-to-date and exclusive virtual content and continual contact from the aftercare concierge.
Is a Support Group Right for You?
You may be wondering if a support group is right for you. If you have been to treatment and completed a substance abuse treatment program, a support group may be appropriate as a part of your aftercare plan. If you are looking to connect with others who are in recovery and have struggled with substance abuse, support groups may also be beneficial. As previously mentioned, American Addiction Centers offers online support groups and these groups serve a great purpose in an aftercare capacity.
Research shows that 4 essential elements comprise successful recovery from substance abuse and mental health disorders. The 4 elements include health (addressing and supporting physical ailments and underlying health issues), home (having a safe place to live), purpose (engaging in work and play activities that make your life meaningful) and support (having relationships that are supportive, loving, and meaningful).3 Support groups, whether virtual or in-person, fall into the support category and are a very important piece of recovery after the completion of formal substance abuse treatment.
Haven’t Been to Treatment Yet?
Support groups are supplemental and most effective when engaged with after formal substance abuse treatment. If you haven’t been to treatment, you should consider calling American Addiction Centers. Substance abuse treatment requires the help of professionals who can guide you in taking the necessary steps to live a sober and healthy life free from drugs and alcohol. We operate facilities all across the United States so there is always a local option available.
American Addiction Centers operates a confidential helpline to assist you or someone you love in determining what treatment option would be best. You can call and speak to a friendly admissions navigator toll-free, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Still Not Sure About Asking for Help?
Reaching out for help can feel daunting and overwhelming and it is the first step in the recovery process. Calling helplines can feel intimidating. To help alleviate your emotional discomfort, consider this guide that explains exactly what happens when you call a substance abuse helpline.
If you have never received treatment for substance abuse, you probably don’t know what to expect. If you are unsure about what getting help looks like, you are not alone, and it is completely valid to feel that way. Consider this guide on how to admit to a treatment facility.
There is no shame in asking for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and addiction issues, making the call for help can be the first step in changing your lives for the better. You do not have to suffer from addiction or watch your loved ones suffer. Help is available.