Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction

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Recently, there has been a dramatic rise in the adoption of alternative forms of peer support services within treatment and community settings to assist recovery from substance use disorders, because of the potential benefits offered to patients.52 However, often peer support has not been separated out as a formalized intervention component and rigorously empirically tested, making it difficult to determine its effects.53

Peer support is delivered in a variety of modalities, including, but not limited to, in-person self-help groups, Internet support groups, peer run or operated services, peer partnerships, peers in health care settings who serve as peer advocates, peer specialists, and peer case managers.54 Among peer support services available today, peer support groups are considered an important aspect of the addiction recovery process.55–58

Previous studies have shown positive outcomes from participating in peer support groups. Active engagement in peer support groups has shown to be a key predictor of recovery,56,59,60 and sustaining recovery.61–63 In addition, evidence demonstrates that one’s belief in their own ability can increase and influence one’s behavior by watching other peoples’ behaviors (ie, performing activities).64 There is a mutual benefit between the members and facilitators of peer support groups. Oftentimes, peer support groups are facilitated by peer workers who themselves are in recovery and benefit positively from peer support groups.21 Benefits for the peer worker include increased self-esteem, confidence, positive feelings of accomplishment, and an increase in their own ability to cope with their challenges.