Let me clear up some confusion. The medical community doesn’t use terms like “self-help group” “support group” or even “peer group”. They call it Mutual Aid Support. It sounds strange to my ear, but whatever, I can go with it.
What is Mutual Aid?
From Face and Voice of Recovery: Mutual aid is the process of giving and receiving non-clinical and non-professional help to achieve long-term recovery from addiction. There are mutual aid groups for people seeking, initiating and sustaining their recovery and for their families and significant others. Sometimes they are called self-help groups, but we prefer the term mutual aid groups because most people seeking help have exhausted efforts on their own to achieve enduring recovery.
Mutual aid group members voluntarily support one another by providing social, emotional, and informational support. People who participate in mutual aid groups typically increase the likelihood of sustaining their recovery as well as improving their physical and emotional health and well-being. Approximately 5 million Americans (2% of the population over the age of 12) attend mutual aid/self-help group meetings each year. 1
The growing variety of mutual aid groups increases the choices that people in or seeking recovery and family members have to find a support network that will work for them. This Guide was developed to inform the recovery community and service providers about these critical recovery resources.
It’s not easy to capture the value of mutual aid groups through quantitative, empirical studies. Scientific studies of the effects of participation in mutual aid on long-term recovery outcomes are based on studies of adult members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and to a lesser extent, Narcotics Anonymous (NA). There are more recent studies of other mutual aid groups, but they primarily describe programs and don’t include information on long-term recovery outcomes. Some of these non-12-Step groups that are described in the research literature include Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), Rational Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, SMART Recovery® and Moderation Management.
There have also been a limited number of studies on family member mutual aid groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen. While more research is needed, when family members participate in mutual aid groups, their understanding of addition and recovery increases, their emotional health improves and family functioning improves after sustained participation.
All studies suggest that long-term recovery success correlates with more intense mutual aid participation.
How long to I go to these groups?
Long-term recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction is an ongoing life process. Millions of individuals and family members have found these groups to be extremely helpful in achieving and maintaining long-term recovery.
Mutual-aid support groups play a vital role in alcohol and drug addiction recovery in the United States and around the world. And, research has consistently and clearly demonstrated that active involvement in mutual aid/support groups significantly improves a persons chances of long-term recovery.
Last year alone, more than 5,000,000 people across the nation attended mutual aid/support groups.
Those who attend mutual aid/support groups often find a deep sense of fit–a sense of finally discovering and connecting to the whole of which one is a part. Within this community of like-minded individuals, mutual aid/support groups help you take responsibility for your alcohol and drug problems and for your recovery.
Says William L. White, a noted recovery advocate:
“The recovery community is a place where shared pain and hope can be woven by its members into life-saving stories whose mutual exchange is more akin to communion than communication. This sanctuary of the estranged fills spiritual as well as physical space. It is a place of refuge, refreshment and renewal. It is a place that defies commercialization–a place whose most important assets are not for sale.”
Mutual aid groups are nonprofessional and include members who share the same problem and voluntarily support one another. Mutual aid groups do not provide treatment but provide social, emotional and informational support focused on taking responsibility for their alcohol and drug problems and their sustained health, wellness, and recovery.
For some groups, meetings can be “open”–anyone can attend or “closed”–attendance is limited to people who want to stop drinking or using drugs.
My mind is blown
The list of mutual aid groups is so long it blows my mind. We are talking special groups everyone and everything. Check out some of these links for more information.