What encourages program members?

Some suggestions.

  • Acknowledge any visible marker of adulthood and accountability. Keeping a dosage graph of an actively tapering patient can be a great incentive. Paying off fines on a suspended license deserves a group cheer.
  • Invite mentoring peers. Mentors can set an example of success and hope. Starting a formal Peer Leadership program, and/or identifying and inviting specific program graduates who inspire and encourage others can be a great help.
  • Try to mention specifics of “small positive things.” For example, a member supported her child’s efforts in school, sports, or teacher conferences: a mother was thrilled when her child wanted to do homework on the second day of school; a father went to a child’s sports event; a mother attended a child’s parent teacher conference; a member was able to refrain from saying or doing something that would cause offense to others. Ask how were you able to do this? Were you able to do this in the past? Why not?
  • Mention in Group something positive discussed in individual sessions if not confidential and if this will help the patient’s Group status. For example, a non-worker starts part time summer work with his wife, which generates income and renews camaraderie with his wife which he would not have mentioned on his own.
  • Ask: “How would that be different if you were not in Recovery?” For example, having enough money to buy Christmas and birthday gifts; making home or car repairs; being “present” for family events, birthdays, children’s school activities. This allows all group members to participate and collaborate on how they were unable, uninterested, and unaware of much of this in the past and how ‘good’ it feels to be able to do so now. These are questions no one else in their life can ask them.
  • Acknowledge fears. Tactfully ask other Group members how they might handle a difficulty a member is having. Ask what worries them about tapering, staying on suboxone, relapsing, or being able to maintain relationships and jobs. Or are they afraid of just not being able to progress in life? Group members will often be more helpful than therapists or providers about member’s fears and anxieties.
  • Mention Group confidentiality periodically. Talk about confidentiality in general: fear of family, coworkers, supervisors, community knowing about their SUD and their Recovery.
  • Ask about relapse prevention plans. What specific plans do you have when you get cravings? Do you have 3 or more phone numbers or people you can call anytime? What about getting exercise, getting out, going for a walk, stepping away, taking a breath. Ask why you think you won’t relapse next time?
  • Acknowledge remorse. At some point most Group members will want to talk about their regrets. Some will bring to Group their tentative plans to talk with family or those they harmed. Ask for specifics: what do they regret having done; what harm do they think they caused. No one else in their life will ask them to talk about this. Consider writing but not sending a letter or role playing in Group what each might say/write to family, friend, or other, acknowledging harm and offering apology.
  • Ask each member to list an attribute of other Group members, one member at a time. This exercise fosters camaraderie, honesty and openness. Group members never have the opportunity to offer constructive insights to others or to hear good things about themselves.
  • Encourage and acknowledge Group support. Group members know how helpful Group is. Providing a chance to express this encourages accountability and helps in preventing relapse. They deserve to acknowledge they are important to each other and that forming new friendships and relationships is difficult for everyone. No one else will ask them to talk about this.