Positive Peer Engagement
Positive peer support and engagement in the recovery process can be described as an exchange between non-professionals who offer solutions by sharing their perspectives and experiences. Positive peer support and engagement is vital for clients at residential, outpatient, sober living, and aftercare. Peer engagement is the involvement with others who have had similar circumstances in life and who are looking to achieve long-term recovery and stay sober from drugs and alcohol.
Because of the positive outcomes of peer support, drug and alcohol recovery centers have used varying ways of using peer support in treatment from addictions. Group sessions have been designed to be peer-led, for example, and peers are involved in the “graduation” process when a client completes a phase of treatment such as residential and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP).
Also called “fellowship” in the recovery community, positive peer engagement is an integral component to 12-Step programs, as they promote the understanding that part of the disease of alcoholism and drug addiction is isolation. Not only in 12 -Step programs, but other recovery models and communities have found that positive peer support has been a foundation for staying sober.
A mixture of positive peer support groups and engagement, along with individual therapy, group therapy, adventure excursions, clinical treatment and case management has been a model inside facilities which has proven to work with substance abuse. With substance abuse recovery, there has been a shift towards the importance of peer support, as clinicians have seen the long lasting and sustainable effects on clients. Peer support should not be confused with formal treatment, as there are cases where no matter how well-meaning, it is not always advisable in high-risk situations such as clients with psychiatric challenges who turn to friends rather than clinicians, for help.
Living in Community
There has been a definite increase in isolated living in the last twenty years in the United States. People are busier with their lives, connecting on social media only, and moving away from active engagement with others. This intrinsic human behavior is now being radically changed into a new “normal,” where the younger generation prefers to connect through gadgets, rather meeting in person. It’s become “easier” to isolate, to stop engaging in conversation. How many times do we see entire families at lunch seated together, yet all on their cell phones?
The importance of social connection is highly important, and people with behavioral conditions, addictions, and disorders can further disengage from interactions with others. Personal and professional relationships are marred, attending social events become lessened, an overall hermetic and introverted lifestyle is adapted to unhealthy degrees. Being separated for lengths of time becomes a habit, and people become increasingly reticent to venture out. Combined with the desire to use, social isolation is the perfect breeding ground for substance use and addictive behaviors. The guilt, same, and remorse is seemingly less difficult when not having to “deal” with people, their assumed judgments, and dialogue that makes the user uncomfortable to look at their behaviors.
Peer engagement and support breaks the spell of the negative spiraling and self-deprecation, as peers who have similar stories can help each other recovery from a damaging self-perspective. “change your way of thinking” is a statement often discussed in recovery, and yet it is difficult to do something that one can’t seem to grasp. Peer support can give valuable insights on how a client may change their way of thinking, by the activity if simply listening to other people’s experiences, engagements, and perspectives.
Typically, people strive for connection and togetherness, we gravitate to others who either look, act, or have had similar pasts. We often consciously or subconsciously look to bridge gaps between us, as often as we look or the dividing lines to split us apart. Generally, people have a tendency to come together much quicker in times of external stressors. War or natural disasters for examples, people often put aside their political agendas and pre-existing discriminations due to the magnitude of the larger force that threatens immediate survival. Such is the case in recovery: clients often find that they meet people in treatment and become friends with those, who originally, they would have never dreamt of having a discussion with.
Substance use in recovery treatment is the common denominator, and clients find that peers can truly meet them where they are at, whereas staff sometimes cannot. In addition to addiction, often with people who suffer from addictions, there are underlying factors that are similar, if not exactly en pointe with each other.
Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate
There has been empirical research in the areas of peer support, mostly case studies of children in educational settings of how and why peer support specifically helps learning and outcomes with resilience. Research has shown that peer play has helped children express emotions and process situations which may be too challenging to openly discuss or tell an adult authority figure. The classroom can provide an alternate for social skill development where the home may lack, and positive peer support can be started at this time in an effort to thwart later negative adult behaviors.
Low-income children have tendencies to have more severe challenges than higher income children due to socio-economic stresses on their families. Developing early strategies and life skills can set them up for a more successful adulthood, however, the percentage is low. Many low-income children turn to peers to engage in negative behaviors such as crime, gangs, and drugs.
High-income children may develop the necessary social skills at home and at a young age to set them up for success, but they do not necessarily escape addiction because of it. On the contrary- many high-income children are often left alone as much as low-income, but have more access to money and material things, or have been raised by a nanny, or sent to boarding school. High-income children turn to peers out of boredom, frustration, and need for love. It does not matter what socio-economic upbringing a child has, to bring them into the world of drugs and alcohol and they may find that as adults they have that as their common denominator when they meet in treatment. The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate.
Recent studies have shown that there has been a reduction in relapse rates, an increase in the retention of treatment interventions, and an improvement with treatment providers and an overall increase of satisfaction with the treatment model partially due to positive peer engagement. In order for positive peer engagement to become an evidence-based approach in treatment programs however, a more quantitative analysis will need to be done and additional research provided for adults with substance use disorders in recovery.
No matter the differences of a person’s economic background, ethnicity, age and other individual factors are, drug and alcohol addiction and the underlying causes of the disease, are universal. Peers can provide each other with a sense of belonging to a group, a larger community, a club, or a like-minded gathering of people who understand each other. Some families of addicts also suffer from addiction, while others are non-addicts who have a difficult time understand them. They try and offer support but accidentally end up doing the wrong thing; such as enabling or shaming.
Peer Support in Treatment
In residential treatment, partial hospitalization treatment, and sober living houses, people may not always have an individual room, but share with another person. If clients have individual spaces, they will still interact with other clients which creates a communal-type living experience. Some
The philosophy of positive peer support during residential treatment and aftercare has become popular because of its benefits for people who are going through their recovery together. It has been one of the foundations for success in the traditions in the 12-Step model, designed around helping others get relief from the disease of alcohol and drug addiction.
Recently, research has shown some positive effects that peer support engagement in recovery has reduced healthcare costs and longer sobriety in qualitative studies. Positive peer engagement starts in childhood, and adult clients may have to access those experiences or learn to engage in a healthy manner to understand the importance of the recovery fellowship.
Positive peer support can offer support to each other in these areas during treatment:
- Emotional support – peers can be helpful with other clients with emotional support when clinical staff cannot breakthrough or provide what they need. Often peers truly can meet other clients where they are at, which is important for compassionate understanding.
- Informational/Educational support – peers can be at different phases of their recovery process and can learn from each other some needed life skills and experiences which can assist in their sobriety. Learning new information and becoming educated regarding drugs and alcohol from peers may help with the recovery process in addition to psychoeducational classes provided during treatment. Peers can provide information from a lateral level and may gain practical information of the “in’s and out’s” of the treatment process.
- Community support – having a community of peers that an individual can interact with on a regular basis can be key to long term sobriety. A feeling of belonging, decreased isolation, social interaction, feedback from several different perspectives, are part of the community peer support and fellowship.
Positive peer support with others who are addicted to substances can assist in finding out about recovery services and options that may have not been previously known. Social connections, referrals, specialized help, and recreational opportunities increase by networking and engaging with peers.
Addicts often suffer from negative self-talk and feelings of “not being enough.” Positive peer support can provide clients in recovery feelings of self-efficacy, boosting confidence, and gaining much needed positive impact. Clients find that understanding the underlying causes of their disease can be helped by sharing experiences with peers. Doing a personal inventory and being able to be honest with another who understands past regressions is highly valuable as addicts need to often “purge” the wreckage of their past to be able to move forward.
Peer engagement therapy groups inside treatment centers are facilitated by the staff, assisting clients to engage either with honest feedback, conflict resolution, emotional unsteadiness, shared experiences, personal observations, positive affirmations, and team building activities. These groups can last one hour up to several hours and will have participants engaged in an activity that includes processing. It is the facilitators job to ensure that these peer groups are safe, free of judgement and name calling, and create an atmosphere of trust, even if they are dealing with conflicts between peers.
Facilitators are trained to redirect and reframe, and can role play for clients, who in turn are able to take skills into further peer dialogues when they are not in session. These groups can teach healthy communication skills, such as active listening techniques, how to work with others effectively, and skills for developing positive relationships.
Therapist led peer support groups can be educational, providing information that peers can that utilize post treatment. Examples of therapist led peer groups are:
- The “Hot Seat”- where one peer sits in front of other peers and is able to listen to what the others think of them. This group must be facilitated by a trained staff member to keep it from a negative outcome. This type of group can be good for conflict resolution and taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
- Graduation- where peers provide positive feedback when a peer is graduating a phase of treatment, often taking turns sharing an experience.
- Experiential Team Building- wilderness therapy, beach therapy, equine therapy, ropes courses and the like provide positive team building experiences, often revealing a side of who each other are when external factors are integrated. Great for creating cohesion, understanding differences, and building confidence.
Positive peer support is essential in sobriety and the recovery process. While in treatment, engaging with others may be the difference of staying sober or relapsing. Sometimes people who meet in treatment become lifelong friends.
Positive Peer Engagement at Vogue Recovery Center
Utilizing successful former guests and healthy peers in long-term recovery, mentorship and community support will propel you toward health and encourage you into motivated success. Developing relationships with people in long-term recovery will invigorate and inspire you to believe in yourself and follow the example of others. It is for this reason that Vogue Recovery enthusiastically integrates 12-step programs into our treatment plan. 12-step programs are foundationally pivotal in any success story from the disease of addiction. Studies have shown over and over again that those who regularly and actively participate in their own recovery via a 12-step program have the highest long-term success rates. As such, we strive to instill in our clients the desire and discipline to properly integrate into a 12-step program both during and after treatment. To learn more about our world-class program and luxury approach, call 1-877-437-6408 today.