Helping Clients Develop a Peer Support Network

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

Developing a peer support network during addiction recovery can be difficult for your client. He could respond negatively to his peers—or even hurt them. One client may trigger another, or they can relapse together.

Despite such potential problems, research has shown that peer support networks are very beneficial. What’s more, every new study supports the premise that interacting with a person suffering from the same type of addiction can be of great help during recovery. Since 2014 the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) has recognized peer support as a valuable addition to the addiction recovery process.

The Peer Network in Addiction Treatment

The first peer networks often form during the initial treatment. People recovering from addiction encounter others with the same challenges here and can quickly bond over a common problem. They all equally understand the uphill battle they face, and like-minded people in their vicinity can help them. They can support each other to ease recovery and the transition to the new normal.

Clients at residential programs greatly benefit from peer support and the understanding that whenever one is at his worst, he can find comfort in the fact that others are going through the same thing at the same time, right next to him. He can always rely on their help and vice versa.

Developing a peer support network can progress even more smoothly if the professionals working with those receiving treatment have personal experience. The professional’s shared experience can help them connect to clients and their peers as well as providing hope to the client.

Maintaining the Peer Network After Treatment

Once the client transitions from recovery, she needs to maintain access to as much support as she can get. This can naturally be problematic, as daily life doesn’t offer as many resources as a treatment program.

To help ease your clients’ transitions, you should ensure that people leaving your programs receive proper advice on what to do now and in the future. They should receive care plans that explain how to keep in touch with the peer network they’ve developed during the program as well as how to find some resources and connect to other peers in their local area.

Doing all of this provides your clients with a safety net of sorts on which they can fall back if they require more support. The most important thing here is that they still feel that they are never alone in their struggles.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.

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