Often times, when faced with a difficult life event, many people will find solace in connecting with those who have been through a similar situation. If you have ever found yourself seeking out advice from a specific person or group due to their understanding of what you are going through, you’ll recognize the power that lies within peer support. Peer support, or peer-to-peer support, is defined as the process of giving and receiving nonprofessional, nonclinical assistance from individuals with similar conditions or circumstances to achieve long-term recovery from psychiatric, alcohol, and/or other drug-related problems. In recent years, there has been a drastic rise in attendance for peer support groups to assist in the recovery of a wide range of substance use disorders and mental health disorders, among other illnesses. In fact, their popularity has garnered the attention of researchers and mental health professionals in efforts to determine the effectiveness of peer support groups. Unsurprisingly, consistent peer support for substance abuse afflictions has been found to be one of the most effective components in an individual’s long term sobriety.
Peer Support Groups
Peer support comes in many forms – search online and you’ll find groups for just about anything. A peer support group is a place where people voluntarily gather together to receive support and provide support by sharing knowledge, experiences and coping strategies, and offering understanding. There are many different kinds, including in-person self-help groups, online support groups and others. Despite popular belief, peer support groups are not bound to those afflicted with substance abuse disorders. In fact, high school groups, like Herren Project Clubs, are examples of peer-to-peer support systems for teenagers and adolescents that focus on empowering students to make healthy decisions and developing stress management skills. For those in recovery, some of the most popular peer support groups held outside the formal treatment settings for addiction include sober living houses and 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous. In fact, 12-step groups are currently the most referred adjunct support for those who receive professional treatment for substance abuse disorder.
Why Peer Support Works
Why a peer support group works may differ from person to person, but their efficacy can be measured by how they affect changes in behavior. Research has found that active participation in peer support groups can lead to self-advocacy, increased self-esteem, confidence, positive feelings of accomplishment, positive reinforcement and an increase in their own ability to cope with life’s challenges. For those with the disease of addiction, these benefits help support a successful recovery. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are four major dimensions that support successful recovery:
- Health — overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.
- Home — having a stable and safe place to live.
- Purpose — conducting meaningful daily activities and having the independence, income and resources to participate in society.
- Community — having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.
As social networks, it is clear that these peer support groups play an essential role in effective, prolonged sobriety. However, it’s important to note that peer support groups are typically not a replacement for formal medical treatments or supervised clinical guidance due to the fact that the peers in attendance do not have the professional training to manage high-risk or psychiatric conditions. Rather, in many cases, peer support groups are used as an augmentation to treatment that provides the community reinforcement approach, as they demonstrate the importance of valued social roles in maintaining abstinence.
Unfortunately, attending a peer support group is not a definitive end to addiction but it is a step in the right direction. The similar experiences with shortcomings and the profound sense of hope that is found within these groups provide those in attendance a sanctuary in which they will be understood. Sometimes, that’s exactly what is needed to begin to turn one’s life around and experience life substance-free.
Peer Support Within Herren Project
Herren Project Clubs
Herren Project Clubs create a peer network in schools to empower youth to make healthy choices. They encourage overall wellness, development of coping skills and leadership in their community. Through club meetings and events, students learn self-care, decision-making skills & stress management techniques so that they can cope with life’s challenges substance-free. These clubs and the communities that form within them motivate students to be true to themselves and support one another. For more information on Herren Project Clubs, including how to register your school, visit: https://herrenproject.org/prevention/
Online Support Groups
Herren Project offers a variety of virtual online support groups for those directly or indirectly affected by the disease of addiction. These peer support groups are moderated by trained clinicians and can be accessed from the comfort of your home, office or anywhere you’re comfortable. All you need is a computer or hand-held device to participate in the weekly hour-long session. All groups are available for adults over the age of 18 and are offered at no cost.
Seeking Sobriety is a weekly one hour support group designed for people who are interested in living a life in recovery, but are struggling with taking the necessary steps to get there. The goal of the group is to provide peer-to-peer support in a safe and supportive environment as well as provide tools to help with the recovery process. Participants must be 18 years of age to participate.
This group is for spouses of those struggling with substance use disorder. The goal is to help process the effects that the disease of addiction has had on them and their family while offering a supportive environment. Topics may include but are not limited to co-dependency, how to create and maintain healthy boundaries, and self-care. All are welcome and participation (speaking/sharing) is not required. You must be 18 years of age to participate.
This group is for family members and friends struggling with a loved one’s substance use. The goal is to help process the effects that a loved one’s abuse of substances has had on them and their family, while offering a supportive environment. Topics include but are not limited to co-dependency, how to create and maintain healthy boundaries and self-care. All are welcome and participation (speaking/sharing) is not required. You must be 18 years of age to participate.
This group is for parents struggling with their adolescent or adult child’s substance use. The goal is to help process the effects that their child’s abuse of substances has had on them and their family, while offering a supportive environment. Topics include but are not limited to co-dependency, how to create and maintain healthy boundaries and self-care. All are welcome and participation (speaking/sharing) is not required. You must be 18 years of age to participate.
This group is for family members and loved ones of those who have lost someone to a substance use passing. Due to sensitivities, topics regarding grief will be covered from an educational standpoint at times while providing an emotionally supportive environment. All are welcome and participation (speaking/sharing) is not required. You must be 18 years of age to participate.
Are you struggling with an addiction to a substance?
If you are struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone. Herren Project offers guidance and support for those looking for help. To start your recovery journey, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (844) 543-8555 for more information. Additionally, you can fill out a support inquiry questionnaire and a Herren Project team member will be in touch with you shortly.
Is a loved one struggling with an addiction to a substance?
If you are the family member of someone struggling with an addiction and are unsure of where to turn for help, Herren Project has a family support team ready to answer any questions or offer guidance to concerns that you may have. Please feel free to send us an email to email@example.com or call (844) 543-8555 for more information. Additionally, you can fill out a family support inquiry questionnaire to get in touch with a Herren Project team member.