Teen Support Groups: Finding the Right Recovery Program

Contributor: Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Purdue University.

B64171997Z.1Teenagers who leave treatment programs early often relapse within a very short time period. They often leave treatment without completing a personal inventory and without making amends and therefore miss out on the full benefits of the program.

They cannot wait to return to their friends who make them feel whole. Because their friends are still drinking and/or using, they end up back to where they were before they started a recovery program.

Peer group identification and belonging is of the utmost importance during adolescence and is an extremely influential force in teens’ lives. Peer group is also one of the hardest things to change when a teen gets clean and sober. Support groups can serve as new, sober social circles and help to foster the development of healthy relationships.

What Is a 12-step Program?

The 12-step process is a proven method for long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Remission occurs upon completing the 12-step process then carrying the message to others who are suffering. The program states that this process causes a change in consciousness to occur and the desire to drink or use drugs to be lifted.

The program is further defined as a spiritual cure for a spiritual ailment. Twelve-step programs afford an opportunity for newly sober teens to be mentored by a peer who has already been through a similar experience. (However, it is also important to attend groups with adults who have vast amounts of experience living sober and can help with inevitable problems that arise along the way.)

Teen programs also provide the opportunity to mentor others, which is widely known to greatly improve chances for long-term sobriety.

How to Find a Good Support Group

Here are eight recommendations that parents can use to help their children find the support group that is right for them:

  1. Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (AA and NA) meetings are great places to start. Millions of people of all ages have stayed sober through these groups. These meetings are held morning, afternoon and night in cities all over the world. Members attend regularly, even after 10, 20 or 40 years after recovering from their addiction. This is partly because of the friendships they make, but mainly because it is proven to keep them sober and a perfect place to meet friends and find a sponsor.
  2. Discussion The Shores ImageBring your child to meetings. Make meetings non-negotiable. Once friendships are established, there won’t be a battle anymore. Twelve-step groups are free. Meetings are self-supporting through member contributions. A dollar donation from those who can is customary to cover rent, refreshments and literature.
  3. Have your child choose a temporary sponsor. The mentor/sponsor is someone who has done the 12 steps and is willing to provide guidance through the process. This person should be someone with whom your child feels comfortable, and ideally trusts and admires. However, completing the steps promptly is more important than fussing over finding the perfect person or how to go about it. Dragging it out for months on end is all too common, and people relapse and die in the meantime. Encourage your child to find someone and get it done.
  4. Repeat step No. 2. Bring your child to the meetings that the sponsor attends, at the very least, until the step-work is done. After that, you can shop around.
  5. Shop around. Talk to group leaders and other parents about the meeting format, rules and regulations of the group. Ask questions. Who runs the group? Who re-directs the discussion away from tales of being drunk or high? Most teen groups have an approved group leader who can set limits. Do members attend consistently? Is participation spontaneous? Do parents get to know each other? Is there a concurrent parents support group or do parents drop off and pick up their children?
  6. Group of friendsFind a group with support just for teens: Teen Anon is a group of teens and young adults who are recovering from addictions. Many teens find it very relieving to meet other young people who are enjoying sobriety.

    Most meetings have an overall upbeat, positive energy. Other non-12-step support groups exist as well, such as SMART Recovery. Long-term data are not yet available on these non-12-step programs, but any social support is better than none.

  7. Size doesn’t matter. Small groups are nice for shy children or those who have social phobias. Many teens prefer to share only in smaller groups. Large groups offer a wider variety of friends from whom to choose. Within larger groups, teens usually break off into small group to chat after the meeting.
  8. Allow time for after-meeting chat. The more after-meeting chat, the better, because that is when friendships are formed. In a study for the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, R. Fiorentine examined qualities of support groups that had the lowest relapse rates over two years. Successful groups had members who formed friendships that extended beyond the group, and participated in group special events and activities such as outreach, volunteering and fundraising. Sponsoring others also prevents relapse.

Developing lasting friendships in a sober support group community is the cornerstone of lasting recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience with finding a support group? What advice do you have to share with others regard finding a support group that is a good fit?

About the author:
Rachael Mattice is the Content Writer Team Lead for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael is a creative and versatile journalist and digital marketing specialist with an extensive writing and editing background.

Her portfolio includes numerous quality articles on various topics published in print and digital formats at award-winning publications and websites. To learn more about Sovereign Health Group’s mental health treatment programs and read patient reviews, visit http://www.sovhealth.com/.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 10th, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.