Recovery after substance use is an ongoing process; just as you need to take special care to heal and re-strengthen a pulled muscle, so, too, do you need to invest time and energy into caring for your mental (and physical) health post addiction.
There are many ways you can support your recovery from substance use, but one crucial method should not be overlooked, support groups.
Support groups vs. group therapy
Support groups provide an essential component of recovery, community. They band you together with other individuals through shared experiences, and allow community, trust and friendship to build through conversation and encouragement. While it’s important to remain close to the friends and/or family who supported you throughout your recovery, it’s just as valuable to build community with those who have shared experiences.
Support groups are different from group therapy in that group therapy can be more confrontational and directly geared toward addressing problematic habits. It’s held in a formal, professional setting and led by a trained counselor, psychologist or therapist.
On the other hand, support groups offer a less formal, possibly more comfortable environment where individuals meet for the purpose of continuing their recovery through camaraderie and peer to peer support. Meetings are not led formally by a trained professional, rather, a group leader or mentor might guide the discussion. However, everyone is welcome to offer suggestions, advice or validation. And while group therapy runs more like a therapy session, support groups run much more conversationally, where no records are kept and attendance is free of charge.
Starting your own support group
It’s possible that after time spent in a treatment or detox center, you find a support group as a part of continuing outpatient treatment through the center itself. It’s also possible that the group offered through the treatment facility doesn’t suit your needs or “click” with you. While this is entirely acceptable, it still remains important to invest in a support group.
One possible way is by creating your own.
1. Organize small details – Before you begin contacting people about the existence of your group, you’ll want to iron out the fine details first. Where is the group meeting? When, and how often? Will it be self-run by the members, or will you bring in a facilitator? Will you have a planned discussion topic every week, or will you allow the needs of the group to dictate the flow of discussion?
2. Outline the group’s guidelines – Obviously you want the environment of the group to be one of friendship and comfortability, but you always want it to be polite, respectful and kind. Setting guidelines, such as committing to confidentiality (“What is said here, stays here”), letting the other individuals in the group have their turn to talk and share without judgement or interruption, and refraining from offensive or judgemental speech are important guidelines to consider implementing as they look after the comfort and care of everyone in the group.
3. Who are the participants? – When creating a support group, it’s important to identify the participants and their corresponding needs. Will the group be for individuals who have overcome addiction from something specific, such as opioids or alcohol? Will it be geared toward addiction recovery in general? Does the group welcome men and women, or just one or the other? Possibly consider contacting your detox or rehab center to see if there’s interest or need for a specific kind of group and let that help you determine the participants involved.
4. Build a proper atmosphere – Confidentiality and a judgment-free environment are essential components to a healthy atmosphere in a support group. Taking the time to discuss confidentiality within the group is also helpful so that everyone understands the expectations exactly. In addition, confidentiality can help the group open up overall. One of the purposes and benefits of a support group is having a secure, safe place where there aren’t negative consequences to opening up about one’s struggles. This opening up and sharing can, in turn, lead to other members giving concrete advice based on their own stories, benefitting all members of the group as a witness of hope and perseverance.
5. Deal with problems quickly – You want the support group to be a secure environment, so when problems, tension or drama arises, it is best for the overall health of the group to address the problems immediately. Adhere to the guidelines and rules of the group set in place earlier, and maintain fairness at all times. Through conflict-resolution strategies, like hearing out both sides and coming to a decision based on the facts and not the emotions involved, you will be able to sufficiently and professionally address the issue.
Support groups benefit
There are so many benefits to support groups. They help individuals remember that they’re not alone and that they can accept and forgive themselves, addiction history and all. They provide emotional support and something to lean on when times get difficult. They can provide inspiration, motivation and fresh perspectives. And mainly, they offer a steady, consistent community in the transition time of recovery.
If you’re looking for a support group, or are interested in starting your own, reach out to Freedom Detox to get started today at 800-475-2312.
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