Support Groups For Addiction Recovery

Support groups for alcohol or substance use disorders (SUDs) are community-based meetings where people gather to share their experiences surrounding a common issue. Their goal is to provide a source of support and community for those in recovery.

Many people have become sober with the help of addiction support groups. However, support groups are only one part of addiction treatment.

Support groups are often intended to complement other therapeutic types of treatment. For example, coupling them with individual or family therapy significantly increases the chances of success.

There are several prominent support groups for addiction, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART™. Knowing what to expect from a support group helps you choose the right group for you.

The most important thing about selecting a group is ensuring it is constructive, encouraging, and aligns with your ideology and long-term recovery goals.

The Importance Of Support Groups

video thumbnail

Part of achieving proper and healthy recovery is being in the right environment, surrounded by the right people. Dr. Ashish Bhatt, MD talks about the importance of support groups for those who are suffering from substance use disorders.

How Do Support Groups Help?

Support groups help people with SUDs, their families, and their friends in many areas, including:

  • Emotional support
  • Education
  • Awareness
  • Strength and encouragement
  • Connection with others
  • Socialization
  • Self-understanding
  • Accompaniment to other types of therapy

Examples Of Support Group Focus Areas

Multiple components of support groups are integral to their success. Group leaders focus on evidence-based strategies for topics that result in higher positive outcomes. Unless the support group is a general SUD group, focus areas may include a specific substance, such as alcohol. Other focus areas include:

  • Education on the disease of addiction
  • Motivational enhancement to encourage group members to see the benefits of abstinence
  • Skill development for early recovery and relapse prevention
  • Examine thoughts and emotions as they relate to relapse and recovery using behavioral therapies
  • Set treatment goals and specific plans to maintain recovery
  • Build recovery capital and positive resources to support successful recovery

Types Of Support Groups

Support group staff develop groups to meet the needs of participants at various stages in the recovery process. Some of the most common types of support groups include the following.

Behavioral Therapy Groups

SUDs make it difficult to problem-solve and make good decisions because addiction takes control over a person’s life. People in recovery must learn how to identify negative thoughts and feelings that may lead to unhealthy behaviors. They must also know how to handle situations that may trigger relapse.

Behavioral therapy groups may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical-behavior therapy (DBT), rational emotive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness.

Psychoeducational Groups

It is beneficial for someone in recovery to understand why they developed a SUD. Psychoeducational groups provide information on the disease of addiction, how the brain becomes addicted, and what a person needs to do to retrain the brain for recovery.

Skills Development Groups

When someone has an addiction, their life often centers around the misuse of alcohol or drugs. They must relearn how to live without the use of substances. Coping skills are the most common type of skills development group. Focus areas may include stress or anger management, recognizing triggers, and building a support network.

Interpersonal Process Groups

The interpersonal process group uses therapies to help members change dysfunctional and destructive patterns. They analyze past experiences and how they relate to their behavior today. The group’s goals include developing appropriate solutions to problems, changing perceptions, and improving interpersonal relationships.

How To Prepare For Support Groups

There are things to help someone prepare and get the most out of a support group. One of the first steps is to choose a group. To make this decision easier, consider the group’s location, group leader, meeting time, rules, and subject matter.

After selecting a group, continue preparing by meeting with the group leader to determine expectations. Personal preparation includes having an open mind, being motivated for change, and committing to the process.

Paid Advertising. We receive advertising fees from purchases through the BetterHelp links below.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


Benefits Of Support Groups

Support groups offer a wide array of benefits for participants, including:

  • Flexible time and days
  • Complement other concurrent therapies
  • Confidentiality
  • Peer support
  • Sense of belonging
  • Skill development
  • Self-confidence

12-Step Groups

One of the most well-known styles of support group is based on the 12-step model that started with AA.

The 12 steps are a part of treatment in many inpatient drug and alcohol rehab facilities. Each step helps people understand their addiction and how it has affected others, grow in their spirituality, and make changes to maintain recovery. The 12-step philosophy applies to all SUDs, with numerous general and drug-specific groups available, including:

All 12-step groups are self-supporting and peer-led. 12-step groups also have aged-focused meetings for teenagers, family, and friends.

Research shows that 12-step groups are beneficial and produce the following:

  • Higher rates of abstinence
  • Higher number of days of continuous long-term abstinence
  • Reduces healthcare costs

Alternatives To 12-Step Groups

There are addiction support groups that do not follow the 12-step model. Some people choose these alternatives because they prefer a more secular group.

SMART™ Recovery

SMART Recovery™ is a type of support group that focuses on self-empowerment.

SMART™ uses a four-point system for motivational enhancement therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Through their online community and resources, participants develop the skills necessary to overcome their addiction.

Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS)

SOS, also known as Save Our Selves, takes a self-empowerment approach to addiction recovery. Although the group is for any addicted person, many choose SOS for its secular treatment approach to sobriety.

SOS support groups guide people to overcome denial and addictive tendencies through honest communication. The founders of SOS maintain that recovery through self-reliance and personal responsibility is possible.

Women For Sobriety (WFS)

WFS became the first addiction support group solely for women. WFS bases its program on 13 “acceptance statements” that help shape how recovering women approach life. These statements strengthen women by teaching them to let go of negative thoughts and accept past mistakes.

WFS holds groups for addicted women to share their struggles and find mutual support. Women can also participate in WFS-moderated online forums and chats.

Celebrate Recovery

People looking for a Christian-based support group can turn to Celebrate Recovery. This group centers all meetings on Christian scripture to find strength during recovery and has adapted a Bible to include the parts of the curriculum.

The recovery model at Celebrate Recovery teaches participants to accept that a higher power is in control. This group also provides support for issues such as depression and low self-esteem.

Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons And Significant Others (JACS)

JACS aims to help Jewish people in the US live independent, addiction-free lives. JACS fosters addiction recovery by integrating participants into the Jewish community. This support group accepts all variances of the Jewish faith. It also teaches participants to understand addiction and its causes. People can also subscribe to online discussions offered by JACS.

Support Groups For Families

Family members play an integral role in recovery, so it’s beneficial for them to receive support and guidance in creating a supportive environment, setting boundaries, and connecting with others facing the same issues. Support groups for families include:

  • Al-Anon family groups
  • Nar-Anon family groups
  • Co-Anon family groups
  • Adult children of alcoholics
  • Alateen
  • Families Anonymous
  • SMART Recovery family and friends
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) peer-led psychoeducation

When looking into family support groups, it’s important to explore options that align with your family’s values and know that many options are available.

Find Addiction Support

While support groups are an invaluable resource for someone completing a treatment program, they can also benefit those in the early stages of recovery.

If you feel that you are struggling with substance use and would like to explore your treatment options, contact a treatment provider today.