The Importance of Peer Support in Pennsylvania Addiction Rehab

The journey to recovery can present immense challenges, as substance use and addiction are not easy to escape from. The hardships each person will face do differ, but they’re still substantial; withdrawal symptoms, cravings, triggers, and more place barriers to recovery. It’s because of this that peer support in addiction treatment has emerged as an excellent support mechanism for individuals struggling with substance use.

At Little Creek Recovery, we’re no strangers to these challenges. We have treated addiction manifold over the years, and can confidently say that peer support is among our programs’ most vital assets. If you or your loved ones are in need of such services, allow us to illustrate the sheer importance of peer support in addiction rehab.

Why Peer Support is Crucial for Successful Addiction Recovery in Pennsylvania

Initially, here we should define what peer support truly means in contexts of addiction. NCBI puts it best:

“Peer support can be defined as the process of giving and receiving nonprofessional, nonclinical assistance from individuals with similar conditions or circumstances to achieve long-term recovery from psychiatric, alcohol, and/or other drug-related problems.”

Under this definition, the sheer value of peer support in addiction treatment cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that peer support significantly decreases relapse rates, most crucially, as we’ll explain below. In addition, peer support increases patients’ willingness to participate in the recovery process. Simply out, a patient within a vibrant peer support group is far more likely to want to engage in therapeutic activities.

It is this demonstrable value which drives increasingly more drug and alcohol treatment centers in Pennsylvania to embrace peer support. Just how they do so and just how peer support yields its benefits, we’ll see next.

A group of friends having a picnic in a forest.
Peer support is a fundamental part of socialization during and after rehab.

The Role Of Support Workers

But before we do, here we should also outline that peer support comes in multiple forms. There is the organic type of peer support which emerges naturally, of course, as patients socialize and coalesce. There is also that of peer support services, however, which is one our Newburgh rehab center proudly offers.

This type is invaluable, of course, and is one you should examine your treatment provider candidates for. On what it is, SAMHSA explains:

“Peer support workers are people who have been successful in the recovery process who help others experiencing similar situations. Through shared understanding, respect, and mutual empowerment, peer support workers help people become and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse. Peer support services can effectively extend the reach of treatment beyond the clinical setting into the everyday environment of those seeking a successful, sustained recovery process.”

It is this type that can best facilitate peer support in addiction treatment, understandably. As treatment providers embrace peer support services and integrate them into their programs, patients can truly reap their benefits.

The Science of Peer Support: How Social Support Helps People Recover from Addiction

How exactly does peer support function, however? Where do its benefits stem from? It’s easy enough to claim a practice or approach works, but there must always be science behind such claims for them to stand. As the center for drug rehab Middletown NY trusts, this has always been our motto.

There is indeed ample science behind this claim, rest assured. Studies have time and again confirmed the efficacy of peer support, as NCBI confirms. So does Peers for Progress, for that matter, noting that peer support:

  • Decreases morbidity and mortality rates
  • Increases life expectancy
  • Increases knowledge of a disease
  • Improves self-efficacy
  • Improves self-reported health status and self-care skills, including medication adherence
  • Reduces use of emergency services
  • Reduces depression prevalence, increases self-esteem and self-efficacy, and improves the quality of life of providers of peer support

The aforelinked sources should help explain the exact science behind these benefits, but here we should focus on one of its pillars; recovery capital.

Two men consoling another during group therapy.
The benefits of peer support in addiction treatment cannot be overstated, as science shows.

Peer Support And Recovery Capital

Indeed, if one condenses the science of peer support in addiction treatment they’ll inevitably conclude at recovery capital. This is a fundamental term to note in this discussion, so allow us to cite its definition by Robert Granfield and William Cloud:

“[Recovery capital is] the volume of internal and external assets to initiate and sustain recovery from severe alcohol or other drug problems.”

What kind of assets are these? They are ones of 4 distinct types:

  • Personal, like financial stability and mental health
  • Cultural, ie membership to cultural groups
  • Familial and social, like peer support groups of familyor friends
  • Communal, like broader communal groups or otherwise distinguishable communities

Under this scope, it should be easy to see just how vital peer support can truly be. It directly enhances two of the types above; the personal, by enhancing self-efficacy, and the communal, by providing an immediate community for the individual. This is why every reputable drug rehab center Binghamton NY offers will lean into it, as we’ll see next.

Self-efficacy has a wealth of science of its own behind it, too. NCBI confirms this in no uncertain terms as follows:

 “Self-efficacy is involved in abstaining from numerous habitual behaviors, including smoking, using illicit substances, and excessive drinking. Researchers showed that among individuals who attempt to quit smoking, those individuals with higher self-efficacy scores have better outcomes [.]”

In addition, they outline the value of peer support in addiction treatment by noting that other studies found that:

  • “At a 5 month follow-up abstainers had significantly higher self-efficacy than those persons who relapsed.”
  • “Abstainers had higher self-efficacy scores than persons who relapsed at a follow up assessment.”
  • Higher self-efficacy scores upon discharge from a treatment center predicted later abstinence”.
A close-up of a person speaking during a group therapy session.
Opening up to group therapy is only one step toward truly reaping peer support’s benefits.

How to Find Peer Support in Pennsylvania: Resources and Organizations to Connect With

If you’d like to explore more stories like the above, you may consult the PA Peer Support Coalition website, which we list among other resources just below.

Of course, what others needed to break free may not be what you need. So, if you need more than the aforecited resources on peer support in addiction treatment, here we can cite ones most relevant to Pennsylvania readers. In no particular order, you may consider the following.

  • The PADHS’s website. This official .gov website offers an array of substance abuse and drug addiction services and resources, including drug take-back box locations, payment resources, and more.
  • The PA DDAP. This .gov website offers an array of prevention resources, news on substance abuse developments and programs, and more.
  • The Pennsylvania Network of Care. This .org website, true to its name, offers an array of resources on peer support networks and peer support practices.
  • The Youth MOVE PA This .org website houses the advocacy organization of the same name, which keenly focuses on young substance users and peer-to-peer support.
  • The PA Peer Support Coalition. Finally, this .org website offers a wealth of peer support resources, including its own podcast and training resources for peer support workers.
A close-up of people holding leaves, illustrating peer support in addiction treatment.
There’s always support out there, and it’s fine to seek it out.

Peer Support in Action: How Pennsylvania Rehab Centers Are Utilizing Peer Support Programs

With all of the above in mind, you may still be unclear on just how peer support is being implemented into addiction treatment programs. If you’re seeking the services of a drug rehab center Edison NJ offers, this is vital information to know beforehand. Therefore, here we can outline the fundamentals across each phase of recovery.

Inpatient programs (IPs)

During this initial post-detox phase, patients are not typically ready to seek help from their peers. Thus, this stage primarily delves into clinical treatment and personal counseling. Still, treatment providers will use this time to establish the foundations of peer support throughout the program with careful case management.

Outpatient programs (OPs)

This phase is where peer support in addiction treatment can typically begin to take hold. Treatment providers will encourage group therapy, family counseling, and other forms of socializing therapy. In addition, such programs will promote socialization through outdoor or team activities, including such therapeutic activities as yoga or hiking and such therapy types as:

Aftercare programs

Finally, aftercare programs constitute the most robust phase focused entirely on peer support. For this final, continued phase of recovery, treatment providers will encourage group meetings, sober living home stays, and more. They will maintain open communication channels as well, which recovered individuals can now open up to since their programs have been tailored to this direction.

A group of happy women hugging.
Aftercare is the final phase of recovery, where peer support truly shines brightest.

For a prime example of this continuum of peer support in PA in action, we may cite NCBI:

“Penn State established a system in 2017 to address the overdose epidemic, supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health-funded PacMAT Program. […]The Hub and Spoke element of the system ameliorated the isolation of specialty addiction treatment from other medical and psychiatric services. […]  As Project ECHO sessions wove together providers of care, peer recovery services removed barriers separating one level of care from another, and allowed patients to move efficiently among settings as appropriate and also access peer-led support groups.”

Overcoming Stigma: Breaking Down Barriers to Accessing Peer Support in Pennsylvania

Such work as the above serves as a prime example of the value of peer support in addiction treatment. Another, however, may lie in how peer support groups can help break down barriers and overcome addiction stigma.

As SagePub finds, some of the primary sources of stigma in healthcare include:

  • Lack of awareness and unconscious biases, as many healthcare providers only “become aware of [how they] may have been contributing to stigmatizing experiences [among their patients]” through anti-stigma training.
  • Therapeutic pessimism, as “healthcare providers tend to hold pessimistic views about the reality and likelihood of recovery”. This, unfortunately, “is experienced as a source of stigma and a barrier to recovery for people seeking help”.
  • Lack of skills, as “inadequate skills and training seem to be associated with stigmatization”. They seem to incite a “desire for avoidance and social/clinical distance among practitioners”, which further impacts “patient–provider interactions and quality of care”.

These are all factors that peer support-driven addiction treatment has been addressing – slowly but surely. As the drug rehab center Princeton NJ trusts, we have seen its powerful effects over the years. From peer encouragement to seek help to a robust aftercare network, this renewed focus on peer support has been kindling destigmatization of addiction treatment in PA – as we were most happy to observe.

A close-up of a person holding the hand of another.
Removing stigma from addiction and mental health treatment is the first step peer support in addiction treatment needs to take.

Peer Support for Long-Term Recovery: Continuing the Journey Beyond Addiction Rehab in Pennsylvania

And finally, having touched on aftercare, here we may note just how vital peer support is to long-term recovery. This type of focus sees ample use in PA aftercare programs, from sober living homes to alumni programs and more. There’s a simple reason for that; peer support in addiction treatment is an everlasting gift.

Indeed, ample research confirms this; peer support is an invaluable asset to the recovering individual. Consider such benefits as:

  • Relapse prevention. NCBI notes that peer support-driven aftercare significantly lowers the risk of relapse. As the individual builds their recovery capital, this kind of benefit is as organic as it is crucial to maintaining abstinence.
  • Psychological support. An inherent benefit of peer support, psychological support is also highly significant. The type of psychological support it offers is immense, as it helps reduce isolation and depression – which NIH also finds immensely valuable toward rehabilitation.
  • Health risk reduction. Finally, reinforcement by one’s peers also does wonders for physical health. NIDA finds that drug users have an “increased risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and other infectious diseases”. By building recovered individuals’ personal and communal recovery capital, peer support networks can also help prevent such risks and cement recovery.
Chairs in different colors in a room, symbolizing group therapy and peer support in addiction treatment
The journey to recovery is always challenging, but opening up to peer support can make it all the easier.

Conclusion: The Power of Peer Support in Pennsylvania Addiction Recovery

In summary, there should be no doubt that one’s peers can offer immense help throughout recovery. Much like how peer pressure can lead an individual to drug use, peer support can facilitate recovery. If implemented correctly and diligently throughout rehab, peer support in addiction treatment can make all the difference between an unfortunate relapse and a successful recovery.

At Little Creek, we take pride in our programs’ focus on peer support – and our results speak for themselves. No matter your unique circumstances, we’re confident we can leverage peer support to tailor a unique and memorable journey to recovery to your exact needs.

If you’re ready to seek help, or simply need more information, please feel free to contact us today. Our teams are always available, and will be more than happy to help you.

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