By Benjamin Chambers, June 29 2010
When you work with adolescents in substance abuse treatment, one of your biggest challenges is what happens after they complete treatment. Connecting teens with positive people who can help them maintain sobriety can be quite difficult.
So it's great to see that Faces & Voices of Recovery has revamped and revitalized its Guide to Mutual Aid Resources, an online, one-stop resource of over 50 online and in-person mutual aid groups that are helping people find and sustain their recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. According to a press release, "the groups are organized into practical, user-friendly categories like, 'Youth-Focused' or 'Medication-Assisted.'"
What is "mutual aid"? Here's an introductory 2008 brochure to "mutual support groups for alcohol and drug abuse" from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). And here's how Faces & Voices of Recovery defines mutual aid:
Mutual aid is the process of giving and receiving non-clinical and non-professional help to achieve long-term recovery from addiction.
There are mutual aid groups for people seeking, initiating and sustaining their recovery and for their families and significant others.
The Guide was originally created by Ernest and Linda Kurtz in 2001 for the Behavioral Health Resources Management Project before it was moved to Faces & Voices of Recovery in 2005. It's now managed by a six-person committee of experts on mutual aid, including William White of Chestnut Health Systems, who wrote a fascinating piece on "The Future of AA & NA" that I linked to recently. (Incidentally, Mr. White also did an illuminating 90-minute webinar for us on "The Transformation of American Communities of Recovery and the Future of Adolescent Addiction Treatment." Follow the link for his slides, or play back the webinar.)
Referring adolescents to a mutual aid group can be tricky, since it can be hard to find one that's age-appropriate, or a good match in other ways. For this reason, you may find it helpful to consult the Guide's "Tips for Serivce Providers," developed by Ernest and Linda Kurtz.
It's telling that at least half of the Guide's "youth-focused" listings are actually aimed at parents and family members, rather than teens themselves. This isn't a bad thing, because parents and family members desperately need this help as well, but it goes to show how thin the resources currently are for young people. So you might consider starting a mutual aid group for teens in your area with adult facilitators used to working with young people. You might be surprised how many teens in recovery are interested in helping their peers. Thanks to Faces & Voices of Recovery, that's a lot easier than it used to be.
Updated: February 08 2018