The roles of mutual-help groups in promoting health results among people with substance use disorder (SUD) indicate that peer recovery support services may be valuable for individuals in recovery from SUD.
What is Peer Support?
When people who have been through addiction recovery treatment and have achieved breakthroughs in their physical health and sobriety return to a treatment center to offer support and guidance to people who are currently or just starting their own recovery journey. That is peer support.
The goal is to allow people going through addiction recovery to benefit from the advice and insights of the returning peer supporter. These meetings are meant to complement the addiction therapy programs they already receive in the treatment facility. Peer support typically takes place in a group. One or several of the returning individuals will speak to a group of current rehab members. One-on-one conversations can usually also be arranged for personalized support and advice.
What is Peer Support Like?
Peer recovery support programs keep the idea of “keeping recovery first” by meeting people where they are in their recovery process. Peer providers are involved in all facets of the program including program structure, leadership, and strategies.
Peer recovery support features the provision of non-clinical peer support. This can include:
- Activities that involve, educate, and support the person as they make the changes needed to recover from SUD.
- Guidance by sharing their personal experiences recovering from SUD by helping to build skills. Assisting and addressing certain needs that someone with an addiction is faced with as they are in early recovery.
- By improving social connectedness and helping to recognize positive new social environments.
Why is Peer Support Important?
Treating addiction is a difficult and long process. Treatment programs use a variety of methods to try to help people beat their physical cravings and change their ambiguous perceptions of substance abuse. It may take months or years before they realize long-lasting and stable sobriety.
A key component of addiction recovery that can have a huge impact on the success rate of a person’s treatment is peer support. Peer support is known to aid in both psychological and physical progress and give people in treatment a sense of hope and belonging.
What are the Benefits of Peer Support?
Although medical professionals and therapists carry out most addiction recovery, there are special benefits of peer support. Research has indicated that it helps people overcome substance use by strengthening their participation in treatment. This is achieved in several ways.
Medical professionals clearly explain the benefits of detox and therapy throughout recovery but it still may be difficult for recovering individuals to understand how these approaches can possibly improve their situation. Addiction pushes a pessimistic state of mind so it is practically impossible to understand how the future can be better. Peers can offer hope by talking about their experiences and how they were in the same position of hopelessness but were able to triumph and improve their quality of life.
Talking to someone who has personally been through addiction recovery offers a richer quality of advice compared to that offered by medical professionals. Although professionals can offer advice backed by medical experience, individuals in recovery may be skeptical about the effectiveness. It’s not that they don’t trust the doctor, but when someone who has been through rehab and achieved sobriety returns to offer tips there is a greater feeling of trust in the advice.
By talking to people currently in addiction recovery treatment, a peer supporter can provide a feeling of community that they might not have experienced. When battling addiction, the world can feel like a lonely place that no one else can relate to. This can hamper a person’s progress and lower their confidence and self-esteem but peer support can change the individual’s perception of the situation and give them someone to identify with.
Peer supporters can also start conversations within the group, showing occupants that they all share fears, thoughts, and aspirations. This promotes a sense of belonging, making them feel closer as a group, and gives them a greater feeling of self-worth and motivation.
Along with the feeling of belonging, the new dynamic of the group can provide individuals with a bigger purpose for beating their addictions. It can inspire them to do it for the people around them as well as for themselves. When a peer supporter comes to a recovery program, it connects and unites a group of individuals. As they learn each other’s motivations and challenges, they begin to become invested in one another’s progress and become aware that they have a mutual responsibility to each other. Before long, the group is encouraging everyone to stay strong because every person’s success is necessary for the overall success of the group.
The benefits of peer support, in contrast to the previous points, are not all supportive and kind. It can also have critical effects which can be confrontational but helpful in the long run of the rehab process.
Facing addiction can be a difficult reality to accept for some people. They can easily fall into a state of denial about the negative implications it has had on their body, mind, and social life. This can be a problem for addiction recovery if the person has entered rehab without the right state of mind.
In this case, they can fail to properly take part in treatment, become a victim of their cravings, and not give recovery a sincere effort. This can come to an end with peer support. A returning individual can spot denial and call it out. The peer can make it clear that ignoring their addiction will only make things worse.
Peer supporters play an important part in offering their experience and knowledge to others once they have made substantial progress with their SUD. It’s common for people to feel a strong sense of gratitude when they benefit from peer support. Because the impact of peer support has made a genuine difference, they feel a desire to repay that in some way. As a result, people who have succeeded in treatment often return to the facility they attended to give advice and start the cycle of support to start over again.
How Westwind Offers Peer Support for Addiction Treatment
At Westwind Recovery®, we are proud to declare that many key members of our staff are allumnus of our program. They are able to offer support and understanding that can’t be found in medical and administrative professionals, no matter how compassionate they are. We understand the struggle of addiction and the importance of peer support.
Additionally, we have seven sober living homes. Here, you can find a different type of peer support. Living with other individuals who are going through the same struggles allows you to learn from their experiences and pass your insights on to them.
What is Aftercare?
Sometimes referred to as “continuing care” is a structured care program that helps a person continue the progress they made in a formal addiction treatment program. It may include:
- inpatient treatment
- outpatient treatment at different levels of care, also considered a form of “step-down” care
- mutual support groups like 12-Step groups or SMART Recovery
- recovery housing
Goals of Aftercare
Generally, the goals of aftercare vary from person to person, but usually include:
- Preventing relapse
- Continuing in the recovery process
- Building new, healthy behaviors
- Connecting with accountable and inspiring support systems
- Receiving help with challenges related to recovery, like housing, employment, and relationships
While research on aftercare programs continues, it generally shows that longer periods of continuing care leads to more positive results in the process of recovery.
Five Reasons Why Aftercare Is Essential
Although residential treatment may be your first step in your recovery, lasting recovery depends on the effective use of coping, grounding, and communication skills in real-life situations. Without actual experience practicing the use of these tools, you can easily slip into old behavior patterns and relapse. Early recovery is a transition period so aftercare support is crucial to reinforce long-term changes in behavior. Aftercare is an active way to build on the recovery skills you learned in treatment.
Taking part in aftercare allows people to discuss how they use their active coping skills in real-world situations. You can get encouragement about areas in which you are doing well and useful feedback about how you can improve your skills in areas in which you’re having difficulties.
You can also learn a lot from people who have dealt with and overcome similar challenges that you are facing. And, if you have been in recovery for a while, you can pass on your knowledge to others who are less experienced. This is the concept of peer support discussed previously. This benefits the people who are sharing as much as it benefits the people who are listening because sharing your knowledge and experiences reinforces your commitment to recovery and healthy life.
When you join in aftercare, you join a community of people with similar goals. This is useful for providing support and keeping you accountable. Conversations in an aftercare group might help you recognize when you’re on an unhealthy path back to your old behaviors–something you might not realize on your own.
Research continues to show that aftercare is effective in helping people maintain their recovery. Studies show that completing treatment and regular aftercare participation is one of the best predictors of lasting recovery.
One study that spanned 40 years, found that people who successfully sustained long periods of abstinence were attending 20 times as many aftercare meetings as those who weren’t able to maintain long periods of abstinence. Research from EHN Canada’s Bellwood facility found that 83% of people who participated in two or more aftercare programs were continuously abstinent.
There are a lot of aftercare programs, so you can choose the ones that suit you best. Aftercare may be:
- self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA),
- individual counseling, or
- outpatient programs
It’s easy to find groups that meet during the day, evening, or weekend to make it easier to fit them into your schedule. This includes Westwind Recovery®’s Virtual IOP program, where you may participate in individual and group therapy and a family group for people interested in supporting their loved ones.
Long-Lasting Recovery with Westwind Recovery®
We understand the importance of peer support and aftercare, and we prove it with our comprehensive treatment programs. You can accomplish your recovery goals at our facility in Los Angeles, CA. Beginning with our:
- Partial hospitalization program (PHP), an outpatient program similar to residential programs but without the overnight stay,
- Intensive outpatient program (IOP), and
- Standard outpatient program (OP),
You can start treatment at the level of care appropriate for you and step down (or up) through the programs as needed. And if you don’t have a stable housing situation, we have our sober living homes to help you become accustomed to a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. There is so much that Westwind Recovery® has to offer to you or a loved one, contact us today. We welcome your interest and your questions.