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The Importance of Finding and Creating a Support Group for Recovery

Recovery is an ongoing process that doesn’t end once you leave your rehabilitation program. Even after you’ve completed your inpatient or outpatient treatment, you’ll undergo the journey of recovery.

The idea might seem scary, but it’s easier. You don’t have to do it alone. Medical professionals advise against taking on any leg of your journey on your own. You’ll have a higher probability of success and a lower risk of relapse if you get the support you need.

What is a Support Group?

One essential source of accountability and encouragement is your support group. A support group consists of your peers who are also undergoing recovery. The group regularly gathers, sometimes weekly or monthly, to share their experiences and discuss challenges.

The alums of a specific recovery program may form a support group during or after rehabilitation. Many people find it helpful to connect with others who have been through the same program or with whom they bonded during the more challenging recovery stretches.

However, your support group doesn’t need to be associated with your treatment center to be successful. You can always join an independent group after you’ve left your program.

What to Expect from a Support Group

If you’ve never participated in a support group, you might feel discouraged by the thought of entering a new social situation. It can feel daunting to make yourself vulnerable in front of others. Knowing what to expect from a session with a support group can help ease your nerves. Here are a few commonalities that most support groups share:

  • They are led by a trained professional. This professional might be a mental health counselor, a social worker, or a trained peer leader. A good leader is essential for facilitating and maintaining the group as a safe space.
  • There are rules about who can join. Most groups lay out their guidelines as to who can attend, such as adults over 18, people with experience in addiction recovery, or friends and family caring for someone going through a trauma. You can rest assured that the other group members will have things in common with you.
  • They have a structure or outline. The facilitator will likely lay out the agenda for the meeting at the start, so you’ll know what to expect. They’ll also keep the discussion on track and ensure no one monopolizes the conversation.
  • How much you participate is up to you. You don’t have to speak if you’re not comfortable. You are welcome to stay quiet and listen or wait until you feel moved to speak.

It’s important to remember that many people in your support group may feel intimidated or nervous about the experience. You are not alone in your feelings, and you might find connecting with other people can assuage your anxiety over time.

Finding a Support Group in Your Area

Once you’ve decided to join a support group, you’ll need to find one that suits you. If you attended rehabilitation locally, you could contact them to see if they host their own support groups or have any recommendations.

Depending on where you live, you should have several options to choose from, including:

  • 12-step meetings. 12-step groups typically focus on a specific type of addiction, such as alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most famous example of a 12-step group, with many chapters nationwide.
  • Therapy groups. Local hospitals or therapy clinics may host support groups. A licensed mental health counselor facilitates these groups, which may have a cost associated with them, and may also be covered by your insurance.
  • Local non-profits. Non-profit organizations in your area often host support groups pertaining to their mission, such as helping people in recovery from substance use disorder live healthy lives. 
  • Online groups. You have many choices if you can’t find an in-person group locally or prefer to start with a virtual meeting. Online groups have their disadvantages since they make it more challenging to interpret participants’ body language, but they can be a great substitute or starter if you’re uncertain.

It’s okay to try multiple support groups until you find the right one. It would help if you felt comfortable enough to share and grow with your group for it to work for you.

How to Form Your Own Support Group

If you don’t find an appropriate support group in your area, you might feel motivated to start your own. Creating a support group can be a rewarding experience that strengthens your community and your commitment to recovery.

When you contemplate starting a support group, you’ll need to consider the following components:

  • Who can attend? Do you want your group to be limited to a specific type of recovery or addiction? Are family and friends allowed to attend? Will you have an age limit? Consider what might make participants feel the most secure when they’re attending and opening up.
  • Where you’ll hold it? You’ll need to decide where to host the group, preferably at a neutral location that isn’t your house. Many churches or community centers may allow you to use or rent a space. 
  • Who will facilitate it? You may want a licensed counselor or social worker to lead your group, or you can get trained in peer leadership if you try your hand at facilitating.
  • What you’ll do? You can have your group stick to the traditional format of regular discussions or get more creative and host various outings and activities.

If you need more guidance in starting a support group, try reaching out to your treatment center or rehabilitation program. They can offer advice or assistance to help you get going.

Activities Your Support Group Can Do

Support groups don’t just have to sit in a circle and talk, though that’s always a helpful format you should incorporate into your model. You can also arrange outings and activities to help your group bond and heal, including ideas like:

  • Going on a hike
  • Sober holiday parties
  • Craft activities
  • Fitness or yoga classes
  • Volunteering in the community

Why Joining or Creating a Support Group Matters

Studies show that people in support groups reduce their chance of relapse by 7% to 25%. Support groups increase your chances of prolonging your sobriety and maintaining your recovery long-term. 

People participating in support groups also report improvements in their values, a feeling of connection and community, and a robust and growing network of like-minded peers. 

Support groups are an essential component of the recovery process. Knowing that you’ll be accompanied on your journey by other people experiencing the same thing makes you more likely to complete your treatment program and continue your recovery in the real world.

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