Peer Recovery Support Services – Build Lasting Recovery with a Little Help from Your Friends
You’re ready and willing to get addiction treatment, but without a car to get to daily meetings – how are you supposed to go?
You’re staying with substance abusing family. You know this threatens your recovery but without job skills you can’t make enough money to move out. How can you avoid relapse when faced with constant temptation?
You’ve got legal problems and a criminal record. There are programs that can help, but confusing government websites make no sense and you struggle with bureaucracy and complicated forms – how can you get the assistance you’re eligible for?
- In a lot of communities, the solution to problems like those outlined above can be found through the use of recovery support services.
There’s no denying the importance of professional clinical services, especially in early recovery, but people making huge life-changes often need more than what’s offered by a few hours a week with a professional.
Fortunately, in a lot of communities, peer-driven recovery support services fill the void left between what you get from clinical support and what you need for lasting change.
What Are Recovery Support Services?
According to SAMHSA’s formal definition, recovery support services are non clinical services that engage, educate and support individuals and their families during recovery from substance use disorders...Recovery support services help you get started with and then maintain recovery and help you improve your long-term quality of life and the quality of your important relationships.
Whether it’s a ride to meetings, help with a resume or an invitation to a sober outing, recovery support services help you manage the enormous task of life-rebuilding.
People that provide recovery support services include:
- Specially trained volunteers who work in recovery support agencies
- Family members (family members with experiential knowledge of the recovery journey may offer advice and support to others going through similar experiences)
- Peers in recovery (people who have achieved stable recovery often give-back through volunteer services to others with substance use disorders)1
Non profit recovery support community organizations provide the majority of services. You may get recovery support services from:
- Government agencies
- Faith based organizations
- Community recovery or development organizations
- Peer support organizations
These services are usually no or low cost, though funding limitations may affect availability in your area. Although mutual self help meetings undoubtedly support recovery, these are generally considered something separate from peer recovery support services.
Some Examples of Recovery Support Services
You may find some or all of the following available in your community.
- Transportation services or transportation payment assistance (so you can make it back and forth to treatment, community self help meetings, school or work)
- Family or marriage counseling, pastoral counseling and others
- Life skills training programs (social skills, time management, budgeting and financial planning, communication, anger management, etc.)
- Health and well-being services (acupuncture, yoga, dance, etc.)
- Housing assistance programs (sober housing, low income housing, tenant and landlord mediation services, etc.)
- Dental services
- Parenting classes and access to child development support services (if necessary)
- General education or tutoring
- Relapse prevention classes
- Mentoring or recovery coaching services
- Employment assistance (such as job training or job-finding assistance, resume help, career aptitude testing, interview skills training, etc.)
- Case management services (working with a case manager to get linked in with services, such as legal services, food stamps, social services, and others)
- Outreach services (where a case worker might visit you at home)
- Child care services (so you can attend treatment or classes, for example)
- Spiritual and faith-based support programs
- General self help and recovery self help support groups2
- Civic restoration (repairing the damage of a criminal record tarnished reputation)3
The Benefits of Recovery Support Services
Recovery support service workers get trained to help their ‘clients’ meet certain objectives. What you’ll get out of participation depends on your needs and efforts, but at a general level, the benefits can include:
- Decreased substance use
- Learning better coping skills
- Learning to meet basic needs independently
- Learning to use personal strengths to support recovery
- Being more likely to re-engage with formal treatment services following relapse
- Better employment or educational success
- Decreased criminality
- Help in finding a sense of purpose and meaning for life
- Help with repairing important relationships
- Decreased social anxiety
- Coming to believe that recovery is possible and sustainable
- Decreased isolation
- Increased participation in positive (drug and alcohol free) recreational activities
- Achieving better housing stability
- Deciding to give back to others4
When to Get Recovery Support Services
You should consider recovery support services in 4 basic situations
- Before you start treatment – These services can enhance your motivation to change or get you organized before you start with treatment. If you’re on a treatment waiting list, recovery support services can get you started with change and harm reduction while you wait.
- During treatment – Services like child care or
transportation facilitate treatment access.
- After treatment – To avoid relapse and build recovery.
- When you can’t or won’t get formal treatment – When personal choice or unavailability limit access to formal treatment, recovery support services can fill-in to reduce harms.5
How Can You Access These Services?
To find out what’s available in your community,:
- Call your county health dept.
- Call a local addiction treatment program
- Ask community spiritual leaders, like a minister, rabbi or priest
- Ask around at community mutual self help group meetings, like AA or NA
- Do an internet search for "recovery support services" and your city, county or state name
Social Benefits of Recovery Support Services
You can list the benefits of recovery support services in 4 social categories:
1. Emotional Support
For hope, resilience, self-confidence and self esteem.
People volunteering their time to mentor, sponsor or recovery-coach can provide tremendous understanding, friendship and emotional support. In early recovery you separate from the people you used or drank with, so filling this absence with positive role-models prevents loneliness.
2. Knowledge Support
For skill building and information.
If you’re on your own, especially after a long period of substance abuse, the enormity of the tasks ahead can overwhelm. You need someone who can advise you on how to replace lost documents, how to access legal services, how to get enrolled in school, how to access job training programs – and so on and so on!
3. Instrumental Support
For hands-on assistance.
Help filling out forms, help navigating complex government systems, help with watching the kids, help with getting to meetings…
4. Affiliational support
For social inclusion and building a sense of community.
We all need a sense of belonging and identify. You used to belong to a community of substance abusers…now who do you affiliate with? Affiliation support services could occur through sober recreational activities, joining a sober recreational sports league, participating in a recovery-oriented community center and others.
Helping Others – Giving Back
Once you attain a certain level of confidence and stability in your own recovery, you may consider sharing your recovery-expertise by volunteering to help others. In many jurisdictions, funding exists to train and organize people who wish to volunteer for recovery support. Contact your county health agency to inquire about getting started (or to find out who you need to speak to).
Some typical recovery support volunteer roles include:
Become a Recovery Coach
A recovery coach mentors others seeking recovery and offers emotional support, and expertise – helping those new to recovery re-organize daily life in ways that promote recovery, helping to develop recovery plans and advising on strategies for meeting goals, advising on matters of sober friendship (how to get some!) and on other general life skills.
A recovery coach also performs the invaluable role of providing basic companionship and modeling how to live in a way that supports recovery.
Become a Resource Coordinator
Become the person that knows what’s available, knows how the system works and knows how to help people get what they’re eligible for, such as: housing assistance, employment programs or health assistance programs. In some cases, this involves helping people navigate complex systems, like the criminal justice system or the child protection service.
You don’t necessarily have to have expertise in all areas. For example, if you work as a lawyer, you may have a unique ability to help people navigate the criminal justice system, and so you can serve exclusively in that role.
Become a Support Group Facilitator
Use your particular expertise to organize and facilitate a support group. Examples of different types of recovery support groups include: living with hepatitis C, making sober friendships, avoiding relapse to substance abuse or criminal activity and many others.
Lead Recovery Related Workshops
Use your expertise to run skill-building workshops appropriate to those building recovery, such as on employment skills, parenting techniques, and many others.
Become a Sober Activity Organizer
Sober activity organizers coordinate events that bring people who share common goals together for social events.
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