February 9, 2023

How Can Support Groups Help Prevent Relapses?

An image of a support group, seeking relapse prevention

Participating in a support group for addiction as one part of a comprehensive evidence-based treatment program can deliver many benefits, including:

  • Minimizing the chance of relapse.
  • Providing social support.
  • Enhancing your coping skills.
  • Boosting your motivation to stay sober.
  • Minimizing depressive symptoms.
  • Improving your psychological well-being.

This guide outlines the various alcoholism and drug addiction support groups that you may find beneficial in your ongoing addiction recovery.

What Are Substance Abuse Support Groups?

Many myths surround addiction support groups. The most common misconception concerns what support groups can and cannot do.

Am addiction support group, also known as a peer support group, is defined as a group of people who meet regularly to share their experiences and concerns about substance abuse. Participants offer peers at various stages of recovery encouragement, comfort, and advice as they navigate sober living.

Although many people find support groups to be a beneficial component of the recovery process, not everyone chooses to participate in peer support programs.

Beyond this, a support group is not intended to provide any kind of addiction treatment. Instead, members have the opportunity to share coping techniques and success stories in a supportive and inclusive environment.

While trusted friends and family members can be a vital source of support for many people in recovery, they may not always understand addiction and recovery from a first-hand perspective. Support groups, by contrast, consist entirely of sober peers undergoing broadly similar experiences of substance abuse.

The most well-known support groups are the 12-step programs AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). We will outline what these programs involve, as well as introducing some alternative support groups after touching on the pros and cons of addiction support groups.

What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Support Groups for Addiction?

Before deciding whether to engage with an addiction support group, weigh up the advantages and drawbacks.

Addiction Support Groups: Pros

  • You should feel supported and that group participants have lived experience of addiction.
  • If you have a limited social circle, support groups can provide you with a readymade sober support network, invaluable in your ongoing recovery.
  • Support groups can add structure and meaning to your life in early recovery, helping to reduce the chance of relapse derailing your recovery efforts.

Addiction Support Groups: Cons

  • Participants who dominate the conversation or disrupt meetings.
  • Exposure to negative experiences and complaining.
  • Interpersonal conflicts within the group.

12-Step Addiction Support Groups

AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) was the first 12-step support group created in 1935 in Acron, Ohio.

AA is predicated on maintaining the anonymity of group members, allowing participants a safe space in which to discuss intensely personal and emotional matters.

The 12 steps are a set of tasks that were first outlined in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. This methodology involves admitting your powerlessness over substance use (step one) and handing over the care of your life to a higher power (step three).

While some drug and alcohol rehabs utilize 12-step methodology, not all treatment facilities adopt this approach to treatment.

Other 12-step support groups include:

  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous
  • Heroin Anonymous

Every 12-step group is peer-led and self-supporting. 12-step support groups also offer offshoot meetings where the family and friends of participants may attend meetings.

Although the higher power in 12-step methodology is “as you understand Him”, the non-secular nature of these programs is off-putting for some. Fortunately, there are many drug addiction and alcoholism support groups that adopt a different approach.

Non-12-Step Addiction Support Groups

Some people are reluctant to participate in 12-step programs because they do not want to admit that they are powerless to their addiction. Others are resistant to the spiritual aspect, feeling unwilling to hand over their lives and abdicate responsibility to a higher power.

The most common non-12-step support groups for addiction include:

  • SMART Recovery
  • SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)
  • Celebrate Recovery

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a secular support group for addiction that focuses on self-empowerment.

The acronym SMART describes the approach of “self-management and recovery training.”

Group facilitators are often licensed counselors. The facilitator will lead group sessions, guiding participants through a four-phase program. These phases are based on the principles of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and MET (motivational enhancement therapy).

Support group meetings provide a science-based and self-empowering environment for those at all stages of addiction recovery. In addition to meetings, participants can access

a robust online community.

According to the principles of SMART Recovery, addiction is not a disease, and labels like addict and alcoholic are avoided. Rather than focusing on the past, this support group program aims to help participants implement healthy behavioral change.

SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)

SOS or Secular Organizations for Sobriety is another peer support group that sidesteps the 12-step methodology in favor of self-empowerment.

SOS support groups aim to help people to overcome denial and addiction through improving their communication skills.

The founders of Secular Organizations for Sobriety advocate recovery through personal responsibility and self-reliance.

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a U.S. Christian-based group offering support to those with addictions, destructive behavioral patterns, and mental health issues.

Meetings are focused on Christian teachings with the aim of helping those in recovery to become stronger internally.

Just like AA, the Celebrate Recovery model encourages participants to hand over their lives and wills to a higher power. Despite this similarity, Celebrate Recovery does not follow the 12-step methodology.

This group also provides support for issues such as depression and low self-esteem.

Substance Abuse Support Groups for Families of Individuals with Addiction

Addiction is a disease, and it is also a family disease. In almost all cases, substance abuse creates problems in interpersonal relationships.

Constructive family involvement can streamline the recovery process for those grappling with addiction. In addition to family therapy sessions offered by drug and alcohol rehabs, there are also support groups for the family members of those with substance use disorders and alcohol use disorders. These groups include:

Support groups for the families of those with addictions can show concerned loved ones how to avoid the following behaviors:

  • Enabling the person with an addiction.
  • Blaming the person for substance use.
  • Denying what triggered substance use.
  • Failing to communicate.
  • Withholding issues.
  • Holding grudges.

Addiction Treatment with 12-Step Immersion at Gratitude Lodge

If you are addicted to alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications, we can help you kickstart your sustained recovery here at Gratitude Lodge. We have pet-friendly rehab centers located in:

  • San Diego
  • Newport Beach
  • Long Beach

All Gratitude Lodge treatment centers offer access to a supervised medical detox program, giving you the smoothest pathway to ongoing treatment. Once you have detoxed – this should take a week or so – you can transition into one of the following treatment programs:

  • 30-day inpatient program
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)

All treatment programs will draw from the following interventions:

  • 12-step immersion program
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • Daily meetings

When you are committed to moving beyond active addiction, we can help you from detox to discharge and beyond at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Call 888-861-1658 and maximize your chances of recovery without relapse.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

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Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.

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Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.


Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

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A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

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