Compare 12-step programs and SMART Recovery, and determine which support group fits your needs.
Learn the benefits of support groups compared to other treatment options.
If support groups don't fit your needs, there are plenty of other treatment options available.
What are drug and alcohol support groups? Support or “self-help” groups can be a vital part of the recovery process for people who misuse drugs or alcohol. These groups are designed to provide a supportive space for people who have faced the same challenges or had similar experiences. In a support group, people can share their stories, receive encouragement, and hear about ways to manage their recovery.
Self-help groups include programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery as well as family, church, and community networks. In addition to support groups for people dealing with substance misuse, other groups offer support for their family members and friends. These groups provide advice and encouragement for people whose lives and relationships have been disrupted by substance misuse, as well as those who want to be helpful in their loved ones’ recovery.
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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded in 1935, is one of the best-known support groups. Its 12-step format emphasizes the importance of God or a higher power in the healing process, but it also has been adapted for nonreligious settings. The first step is admitting that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and need help overcoming it. Other steps, such as making amends for pain or harm you may have caused and committing to continuous improvement, aim to help people become whole, shaping a way of life that relieves the urge to drink.
AA and affiliated groups that follow its principles, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous, are found across the country. There are more than 50,000 AA groups nationwide and thousands of Narcotics Anonymous locations worldwide.
While self-help groups are not intended to be a substitute for formal counseling, many addiction treatment programs encourage joining a support group as part of a recovery plan. The traditional 12-step group:
SMART Recovery, which got its official start in 1994, is a popular alternative to traditional 12-step programs. It’s based on a four-step process that uses cognitive therapy — changing one’s thinking to manage emotions. The program’s four steps help participants change behaviors that trigger substance misuse:
Because recovery is an ongoing process, self-help groups provide support both during and after treatment to help individuals remain drug- or alcohol-free and live healthy lifestyles.
If you need help confronting a problem with drugs or alcohol, a support group might be a good place to gather strength and encouragement to begin the recovery process. While not intended to replace formal mental health treatment programs, group therapy offers a variety of benefits:
While drug and alcohol support groups aim to offer the comfort and compassion of people with similar experiences and perspectives, they differ from other treatment methods that some people prefer. Here are some reasons:
Al-Anon Family Groups, 888-425-2666
Adult Children of Alcoholics, 310-534-1815
Alcoholics Anonymous, 212-870-3400
Cocaine Anonymous, 310-559-5833
Narcotics Anonymous, 818-773-9999
Secular Organizations for Sobriety, 323-666-4295
SMART Recovery, 440-951-5357
Women for Sobriety, 215-536-8026