Identifying the Main Components of Substance-Related Addiction Recovery Groups

Subst Use Misuse. 2021;56(6):840-847. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2021.1899228. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


Objectives: Mutual-aid groups are a central part of many individuals' recovery journeys from substance addiction, and this research aimed to identify the key ingredients of a diverse range of recovery groups.

Methods: Individuals from 30 different substance addiction recovery groups across the UK (N = 151, 66% male, M age = 42.5 years) completed a survey, which asked participants to provide a narrative about their recovery group experiences. Participants were also asked to rate the extent to which theorized ingredients of addiction recovery groups were offered by their group, and how important each was to them. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analyzed.

Results: The results indicated that the recovery group components suggested in previous literature were both present and rated as important. Component ratings did not differ depending on the type of group, the length of time the person had been in recovery, nor the length of time they had been involved in the group. The qualitative results identified other important components of recovery groups that had not been identified in the previous literature: presence of like-minded individuals and developing self-awareness and reflection skills. An updated list of recovery group components was thereby created.

Conclusions: Overall, the findings provide an in-depth, person-focused perspective on what makes an addiction recovery group successful. Asking group members directly about their experiences allowed us to refine and expand on previously theorized components. The updated components can be used as a template for developing future mutual-aid groups.

Keywords: Addiction; mutual aid; recovery; recovery group; substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires