How to Join an Addiction Support Group

Three Parts:Finding the Right Support GroupStarting and Continuing with a GroupAdding the Support Group to Your Treatment Plan

When you’re battling an addiction — whether it’s drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, junk food, sex, or something else — you can feel very isolated and alone. People who work to overcome an addiction by developing a strong support networks have better success rates. Physicians, mental health professionals, friends, and family will be part of this network, but sometimes you really just need to talk to other people who truly understand what you’re going though. This is why joining an addiction support group can be very therapeutic — but only if you take your time, ask questions, and find the group that’s right for you.

Part 1
Finding the Right Support Group

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    Talk to your healthcare providers and trusted sources. If you are battling addiction, you should make sure you are under the care of an experienced and collaborative healthcare team before seeking out support groups. Ask the physician(s), mental health professional(s), and others who provide you with care for tips and references for addiction support groups.[1]
    • Also try asking loved ones, friends, and colleagues who have experience (firsthand or otherwise) with addiction treatment. See what leads they can provide.
    • Remember, though, that the final choice is always yours when it comes to finding a group that best fits your unique circumstances.
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    Conduct targeted online searches for groups. The internet is a fantastic resource for identifying potential support groups, but some common sense measures should be taken. For instance, start your search at recognized and respected sites that deal with your type of addiction, and look for groups that likewise focus on your particular addiction.[2]
    • Established organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (, Narcotics anonymous (, and SMART Recovery ( have search features on their sites that can help you find either online or in-person support groups that suit your needs.
    • Websites for government agencies that deal with health issues can also be a good resource. Some have links to support group sites, and may also have locator searches that can help you find a support group close to home.[3]
    • Many addiction recovery organizations offer both online and in-person support group options. Talk to your healthcare team and consider your own needs and preferences when deciding which may be best for you.[4]
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    Identify promising groups and ask questions. Every case of addiction and every individual dealing with the problem is unique, so there is no “one size fits all” program for any single addiction disorder. Before committing to a group that seems promising on the surface, do some digging and ask questions of the group’s leadership in order to get a better “feel” as to whether the group is right for you.[5]
    • Start by asking basic questions regarding how the group functions and meetings operate. These might include:
      • “When and where does the group meet, and do the meetings always happen on this schedule?”
      • “How much does it cost?”
      • “Are the meetings more structured or free-flowing?”
      • “Are meetings led by a professional, a layperson, the members, or no one?”
      • “What affiliations if any does the group have to nonprofits, religious or other organizations, government agencies, healthcare systems, etc.?”
      • “Is everyone expected to speak at each meeting, or is it OK to just listen sometimes?”
      • “What are the policies regarding confidentiality?”
    • If you can’t get satisfactory answers to your questions, keep looking.

Part 2
Starting and Continuing with a Group

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    “Try before you buy.” No matter how much research you do and how many questions you ask beforehand, you never really know if an addiction support group is right for you until you give it a try. Ask if you can attend a meeting or two as an observer in order to get a “feel” for the particular group dynamics.[6]
    • If you are required to join the group before you can attend a meeting, remember that you should never be obligated to keep attending if it isn’t the group for you. Never be afraid to switch support groups in order to meet your addiction recovery needs. Remember that the primary focus needs to be you and your condition.
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    Watch out for scams, quackery, or “gripe clubs.” No matter how much we all like to believe we could never fall for a scam, we all have at one time or another. When you’re struggling with addiction and seeking help, you may be especially vulnerable and miss signs that your support group is not all that it is cracked up to be.[7]
    • “Red flags” for a scam might include high initial costs or rapidly increasing costs to be part of the group, or group leaders who push you to buy (perhaps from them) a particular product or treatment regimen.
    • Groups that promise a permanent “cure” for your disease of addiction or push you to stop your medications, therapy, or other treatments should also be treated with great suspicion. Addiction is a manageable, controllable condition when you find the right mix of treatments.
    • Groups that revolve around members complaining about their problems instead of seeking solutions and coping mechanisms are probably not worth your time. Nor are groups that judge your legitimate treatment choices. Remember, support groups are supposed to be supportive!
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    Evaluate the group continuously. No group remains the same, and neither will you or how you experience your addiction. Group members come and go, and circumstances and dynamics change within and outside the group. A support group that is perfect for you initially may no longer suit your needs shortly thereafter.[8]
    • Never grow complacent or feel obligated to stay with a support group that no longer provides what you need. Dealing with addiction is an ongoing, challenging process, and you need all the help you can get.
    • Try to evaluate the group regularly in the same manner as you did when you first joined it. If you wouldn’t have chosen to initially join the support group in its current iteration, then it is probably time for a change. Start your search again.

Part 3
Adding the Support Group to Your Treatment Plan

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    Don’t try to get by on support groups alone. A support group should always serve as a complementary element to your overall addiction treatment plan, no matter if you are addicted to hard drugs, fast food, or something else. Regardless of how supportive and helpful a group is, addiction treatment requires a range of methods and points of emphasis.[9]
    • As the name indicates, support groups should support your overall effort to manage your addiction. But support alone is not enough to overcome the problem.
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    Get a professional diagnosis and treatment plan first. When you are ready to address your struggle with addiction, start with care under the guidance of medical and mental health professionals and addiction specialists. Develop an accurate diagnosis of your condition and an individualized treatment plan that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social elements of it.[10]
    • To successfully deal with addiction, you need to first change your behaviors, then work to maintain those changes. Support groups are best suited to the second task.
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    Incorporate support groups into your ongoing treatment plan. Joining a support group shouldn’t replace or take time away from any component of your treatment regimen. Otherwise, the group is likely to do more harm than good in regards to the management of your condition.[11]
    • For most people struggling with addiction, the front line treatments include medications and therapy under the direction of trained experts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for example, which can help you develop new routines, perspectives, and coping mechanisms, is often a beneficial treatment option for addiction.

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Categories: Addictions