Updated on 07/03/23
Content reviewed by Nicholas G. Glines
Recovery is a lifelong journey. Individuals that choose recovery recognize that there will be inevitable challenges during treatment and well after. These challenges help prepare individuals to better respond to triggers and stress while keeping sobriety at the highest priority in their life.
While most people understand addiction and recovery as a personal journey, success is best achieved with the help of constant social support. Social support allows people to feel valued and avoid isolation, and the risk of relapse increases when these factors are not present. Social support facilitates quicker treatment entry and greater treatment engagement, leading to more favorable treatment outcomes.
Social support encourages individuals to seek substance use or mental health treatment.
One of the most notable elements of social support for treatment and recovery is that it fosters earlier treatment entry for individuals struggling with substance use and mental health disorders.
When an individual initially participates in substance use, their body and mind quickly adapt to the chemical surges produced by the substance. Individuals may perceive their substance use to create feelings of calmness, relaxation, contentment or joy. Repeated substance use can quickly lead to addiction as a person attempts to achieve these feelings repeatedly. More often than not, substance use eventually leads to feelings of guilt, sadness and isolation as an individual’s brain begins to constantly search for ways to achieve these feelings through the use of alcohol and other drugs above all other things.
Similarly, mental health disorders can also produce powerful feelings of sadness and isolation, especially when left untreated. Many conditions can produce devastating patterns of thought and behavior that leave individuals feeling worthless and defeated. These feelings can dissuade an individual from seeking treatment, thinking they are not worthy of help or that nothing could help them.
Social support is known to influence treatment entry through motivation to change. Supportive and compassionate relationships help an individual struggling to recognize that they deserve to heal from the consequences of their substance use or mental health struggles. In general, it strengthens an individual’s place in their community and teaches them that seeking treatment is a sign of courage, not weakness. Therefore, being surrounded by encouraging and empowering peers can help a person understand their need for treatment and recovery and can influence quicker treatment entry.
Social support encourages treatment commitment.
Another critical factor that social support plays in treatment and recovery is that it encourages greater engagement and commitment to treatment. While individual psychotherapy can produce healing benefits in several ways, group therapy interventions offer an opportunity for individuals to connect with others that may be going through similar struggles. Without a deep connection to one’s treatment experience, there is no purpose or motivation to continue sobriety and recovery. With group intervention and the prioritization of social support, individuals can feel empowered to interact with one another during treatment and throughout their recovery journey.
Mutual aid groups for social support
There are several different types of social support that each impact treatment engagement, one being mutual aid groups. These groups provide support for sobriety and offer a supportive community for individuals that are working through recovery. An excellent example of a mutual aid group is a 12-Step group. Participation in 12-Step groups is associated with short-term and long-term abstinence outcomes, including increased treatment engagement and improved substance use disorder (SUD) outcomes.
The family unit for social support
There is no question that addiction is a family disease. The family unit can play a crucial role in treatment engagement, especially for those receiving treatment from an outpatient program while living at home. Supportive family relationships can look like:
- Avoiding enabling behaviors
- Motivating change
- Providing emotional support
- Fostering greater independence for the family member in recovery
- Voicing concerns
Family is most likely to encourage a family member to seek out and continue participation in treatment, which is why the family unit plays a critical role in facilitating social support.
Peer groups for social support
As associating with deviant peer groups can lead to substance use and other behavior problems, associating with positive and caring peer groups can lead to positive mental health outcomes. Since peer groups play a significant role in substance use, there is no question that they also play a role in facilitating continuing treatment engagement.
When an individual chooses recovery, they likely have to decide no longer to associate with deviant or substance-using peers. In turn, they must create new and healthier relationships, particularly with individuals also working to secure lifelong sobriety. In this way, the quality of one’s relationships is essential in motivating treatment engagement, both for short-term and long-term treatment.
New Hope Ranch is a men’s-only addiction treatment center that understands social support as an essential element that facilitates positive treatment outcomes. At the ranch, we utilize the Twelve Steps as a foundational program for motivating change during treatment and recovery. We also offer other intimate support groups to help increase your sense of social support during your healing journey. To learn more about our treatment program, call us at (737) 600-8565.