Why Self-Help Groups Alone Are Not Enough to Treat Addiction

People with serious addictions need additional support from a personalized rehab program facilitated by expert treatment professionals.

We’ve all heard the stories about a person who decided to get sober, started attending 12-Step groups, and is still sober to this day. While stories like this can really happen, they are few and far between. For most people, addiction self-help groups are not enough to adequately treat addiction on their own. More often than not, people with serious addictions need additional support from a personalized rehab program facilitated by expert treatment professionals.

What are Addiction Self-Help Groups?

Addiction self-help groups are groups that offer supportive spaces where people can interact and share with others who have similar substance abuse problems and life experiences. Sometimes these groups are also referred to as “recovery groups” or simply “recovery meetings.”

One of the most well-known addiction self-help groups is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which follows 12 steps and principles to help individuals overcome their substance abuse, heal emotionally, and grow spiritually.

Although addiction self-help groups are an important part of the recovery process, they are not intended to be a substitute for formal treatment. Instead, these types of groups host consistent meetings that are led by its members and fueled by consistent participation from all members. There are many different addiction self-help groups but generally, these types of fellowships are characterized by the giving and receiving of nonprofessional and nonclinical help from individuals with similar substance use disorders and life challenges.

What Are Some Examples of Addiction Self-Help Groups and Recovery Groups?

Some recovery groups are more well-known than others, but here are several examples of self-help groups for addiction:

  • 12-Step fellowships (AA, NA, CA, etc.)
  • LifeRing
  • SMART Recovery
  • Refuge Recovery
  • Women for Sobriety
  • Celebrate Recovery
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety

What Are the Benefits of Recovery Groups?

The success rates of addiction self-help groups are notoriously difficult to study because results can be subjective. However, recent research from the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation does show that people who participate in treatment including self-help groups have higher rates of sobriety, express more satisfaction with treatment, and are significantly less likely to relapse or return to homelessness.1 Here are several other benefits of self-help groups for addiction.

  • You won’t feel like you’re alone in your addiction.

By attending a recovery support group for addiction, you will meet people who are going through the same thing and realize that addiction can affect anyone. Seeing others with the same struggles can help melt away the shame and isolation associated with addiction.

  • You see that recovery is possible. 

A self-help group full of people in recovery is proof that sobriety is possible even after a life of addiction. In addition to providing verbal feedback, suggestions, and encouragement, the members’ lives are a testament to the possibilities that await you.

  • You can share openly.

Most people in addiction recovery groups have made bad choices while they were addicted (just like you) but they emphasize the fact that everyone is a work in progress. This is comforting and can be motivating as you learn to share your own life openly with others. Unloading this baggage is a key part of the healing process.

  • You always have a safe place to go.

If you’ve had a bad day, you recently relapsed, or you need some extra guidance regarding a particular situation, a recovery support group can serve as a safe and supportive place where you can feel comfortable sharing your life with others.

  • They are everywhere, including online.

If you are traveling and can’t attend your local group meeting, you can likely find other meetings nearby with a quick Google search. If you don’t feel comfortable attending a meeting while traveling, many addiction self-help groups also offer virtual meetings online.

Why Are Self-Help Groups Alone Not Enough to Treat Addiction?

While there are many great benefits of addiction self-help groups and recovery meetings, they are not intended to replace formal treatment for several reasons.

  • Detox often requires medical monitoring or treatment.

If you are severely addicted you will most likely need medical treatment to safely detox. Untreated withdrawal symptoms can become very severe or cause medical emergencies that can be deadly. Trying to detox on your own can also be very difficult and relapse is much more likely.

  • Addiction self-help groups do not teach people how to manage issues related to addiction. 

Addiction self-help groups are not equivalent to clinical therapy, which is an essential part of the addiction treatment process. Addiction treatment should incorporate evidence-based treatment methods like behavioral therapy to adequately address the underlying causes of your addictive behaviors. Clinical therapy sessions are also designed to help you develop new, healthier behaviors and learn how to implement them in your daily life. Family therapy is also necessary to encourage healing among members of your household or family unit.

  • Many people need intensive medical and therapeutic intervention. 

Intensive medical and psychological treatment is sometimes necessary, as many mental health problems are contributing factors or results of substance abuse. This is especially true if you are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. These issues aren’t something you can overcome with willpower, no matter how dedicated you are. Instead, you will need professional help and possibly medication to address them.

  • Self-help programs are not highly personalized.

A comprehensive long-term drug rehab program is highly individualized to address your current needs, past experience, and goals for the future. It can also be adjusted based on any changing issues or symptoms you may experience in the stages of early recovery.

  • Self-help groups do not provide expert guidance.

One of the best benefits of formal treatment is the expert guidance you receive from educated and compassionate professionals. This is something that’s not offered in a self-help group, although peer support is also vital to recovery. Addiction treatment experts at a high-quality drug rehab program will have the proper knowledge and experience to lead you through your recovery journey and provide helpful instruction and support that is based on the latest research and consistent positive results.

Recovery Meetings: The Perfect Supplement to Professional Addiction Treatment

Many drug rehab centers and sober living programs require that clients participate in an addiction self-help group of their choice, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or LifeRing. These groups are extremely valuable and provide excellent opportunities to connect with other sober people, stay accountable to your sobriety goals, and help others achieve success in sobriety.

If you need help getting back on track or you are struggling to get sober, Eudaimonia Recovery Homes can help. We operate several sober living homes in Texas and Colorado that are designed to help people in recovery stay accountable and sober. Our individualized recovery services also offer an additional layer of support to help you adjust to a stable life in recovery and develop the skills you need to successfully live sober on your own.

Asking for help is the hardest part but we are here to help you start over whenever you are ready. Please call (512) 363-5914 for more details.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5047716/

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