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What are Mutual Support Groups?

Posted on September 15, 2018

What are Mutual Support Groups?

In this post. we aim to assist you in understanding the value you may gain by attending mutual support groups. Groups of this nature are an important resource if you are recovering from any manner of addiction. This includes addiction to substances as well as behavioural addictions.

If you fail to embrace mutual support groups, then you are doing your recovery a real disservice. In fact. we would go as far as saying that your refusal to attend mutual support groups could mean you are not entirely committed to your recovery.

Mutual Support groups assist people who are recovering from substance misuse disorder (SUD). SUDs are chronic disorders. One characteristic of chronic disorders is the tendency to relapse.

By attending mutual support groups on a continuous basis, the likelihood of relapsing is greatly reduced. Some are able to maintain their sobriety for many decades largely because of the benefits that can be had by attending mutual support groups over a long period of time.

Mutual support groups are non-professional in nature. Groups are run by volunteers. All attendees share similar problems and all wish to avoid relapse. All members are volunteers. The central principle at play is that of ‘giver’s gain’.

It must be stressed that mutual support groups are not classified as professional treatment providers and you will not be offered clinical care via these groups.

Whilst mutual support groups do not offer formal and evidence-based treatments, they are nevertheless considered an important part of the addiction recovery process. Groups provide emotional, social and informational support to vulnerable people who may not be getting any formal help from either their local Council or NHS trust.

Mutual support groups help individuals take full responsibility for their recovery. Groups also promote activities that help members improve their health, wellness and recovery. The most well-known mutual support groups are those that follow the 12-step model. These groups include Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous. Non-step groups include SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety and Save Our Selves.

What are 12 Step meetings?

By far the most well-known mutual support groups are those following the 12-step model. This is perhaps because the 12-step model is the eldest of all. The 12-step approach was formulated in the 1930s by Alcoholics Anonymous’ founder, Bill Wilson.

Both membership and attendance to 12-step meetings are free of charge. Meetings take place in most towns and cities throughout the UK. The 12-steps encourages you to take responsibility for your recovery. You will share stories about your experiences with addiction and recovery with the wider group. You will also learn by listening to other people’s experiences.

The 12-steps encourages you to recognise a ‘higher power’ that will help you remain in recovery. You are also encouraged to take an active role in helping others in meeting their recovery goals.

Example 12-step groups include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Chrystal Meth Anonymous
  • Dual Recovery Anonymous

12-step groups also exist to assist those who have been negatively affected by a loved one’s addiction. Examples of such groups include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon and Co-Anon.

12-step meetings are either “closed” or “open”. Open meetings are open to all. This includes all. This includes people who are able to drink alcohol moderately. “Closed” meetings are not open to non-addicts.

To attend closed meetings, you must wish to stop drinking or using drugs. You must also admit that you were powerless to control your alcohol or drug use and you must be willing to reach out to a “higher power” that’s capable of giving you the power to remain abstinent.

12-step meetings typically begin with a prayer or a reader. After this, members are encouraged to share their experiences of dependency and what steps they are doing to ensure they do not return to drug or alcohol use. Occasionally, a guest speaker will attend meetings to offer members a fresh perspective.

It must be stressed that 12-step meetings are not to everybody’s liking. This may be the case if you are unable to accept the existence of a higher power. You may also dislike the insistence that addiction is a disease rather than a choice. For these reasons, some have been known to criticise 12-step meetings for making their members feel disempowered.

12-step meetings also advocate the concept of “membership for life”. They argue that if you stop attending meetings, you are likely to return to alcohol or drug abuse. Some may argue this reasoning is bordering on the dogmatic.

Women for Sobriety

A popular 12-step alternative is Women for Sobriety (WFS). This organisation is beginning to gain international prominence. WFS advocates Thirteen Statements. These Statements encourage spiritual and emotional growth amongst its members. Similar to 12-step groups, WFS’s key goal is total abstinence.

As the name suggests, WFS is only open to the female population.

SMART Recovery

If the 12-step model isn’t to your fancy, then SMART Recovery is an excellent choice. Unlike WFS, SMART Recovery is open to both sexes. SMART Recovery shuns spirituality in favour of an evidence-based approach. SMART achieves this by incorporating cognitive behavioural therapy and rational emotive behavioural therapy into its programme.

SMART Recovery advocates four goals. These goals include:

  1. Enhancing and maintaining motivation to abstain
  2. Coping with urges
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  4. Balancing momentary and enduring satisfactions

Like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery meetings are held throughout the United Kingdom. It’s likely you will not struggle to locate a local SMART Recovery group in your local area. A full list of meetings can be found on SMART Recovery’s website.

As well as offering meetings, SMART Recovery also offers online discussion groups on its website.

Save Our Selves/Secular Organization for Sobriety

Save Our Selves is a support group that’s the polar opposite to the 12-step model because it insists recovery is an individual responsibility and not something you can delegate to a ‘higher power’. Like SMART Recovery, Save Our Selves also advocates the use of cognitive therapy in helping members achieve their recovery goals.

Save Our Selves meetings begin with a reading of its guidelines. This is followed by an open group discussion. Each Save Our Selves group is entirely autonomous. This means the meeting format will differ from group to group. You can join the Save Our Selves Facebook group by clicking here.

How effective are mutual support groups?

Study after study has confirmed the power of mutual support groups when it comes to getting sober. In short, the more you participate, the lower the odds you will relapse. Those who have a high level of participation and interaction with mutual support groups are more likely to maintain their abstinence.

One principle at play is “helping helps the helper”. This is also known as the “giver’s gain” principle. This is perhaps one reason why the 12-step model has proliferated since it strongly advocates a ‘sponsorship’ programme where experienced members are encouraged to assist newcomers in maintaining their abstinence.

Getting help today

If you are addicted to drugs and alcohol, then you must ensure your addiction is treated correctly. Attending mutual support groups is a powerful way to maintain your recovery. However, you may need to undergo treatment at a local rehab clinic where you will be safely detoxed. For more information, contact Rehab Recovery today on 0800 088 66 86. Our free helpline will help you select rehab treatments that are ideally suited to your needs.

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