Professional treatment sometimes has natural limits and continuing care beyond formal treatment is critical to achieving a long-term, satisfactory outcome for individuals affected by substance use disorders. Self-help or peer support programs can be an important resource.
Self-help approaches began with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
and have grown to address a wide variety of addictions. Rational Recovery
and Moderation Management
are two other self-help approaches for alcohol problems. Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
and Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
, both based on AA, are two of the largest self-help organizations addressing illegal drug use. AA, NA and CA use the "12-step" method, with its focus on developing personal responsibility within the context of peer support.
AA, NA, or CA groups are not for everyone at all stages of recovery. For those still at a point that they are resistant to exploring their use of alcohol or drugs as problematic, the introduction of AA/NA/CA may be too early and counterproductive. Forcing a self-help group on a person too early may create greater resistance later in the process of recovery when AA/NA/CA could be very helpful. A person may find support in other areas of their life that are as productive as AA/NA/CA, and it may be better to use these natural supports. However, we have found that people who participated in self-help groups before their injury can be more open to involvement after.
When attendance at AA, NA or CA groups is being considered there is a certain amount of planning that should take place. We think it is important for someone to accompany a person who has had brain injury and has never attended self-help groups to the first few meetings. Having someone to share the initial experience with, and talk about it afterward, can make the difference between dropping out or staying with the group.
Nuts and Bolts of Using Self-Help Groups
describes what will happen at a meeting.