How Young People in Drug and Alcohol Recovery Programs Can Support One Another: An Interview with The Prevention Researcher

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Record numbers of young people are in recovery for drug and alcohol addictions. Peer recovery groups can have a powerful impact on youth in recovery, creating positive changes in the lives of adolescents. Greg Williams, B.A., co-director of Connecticut Turning to Families and Youth, discusses the importance of peer support in drug and alcohol recovery programs in an interview with The Prevention Researcher, the quarterly journal focused on successful adolescent development.

Greg Williams, B.A.

... the power of lived experience can move other young people to break the denial of their own substance and drug use ...

In a peer support group, “the power of lived experience can move other young people to break the denial of their own substance and drug use,” says Greg Williams, B.A., co-director of Connecticut Turning to Families and Youth in an interview with The Prevention Researcher. “Parents influence kids and communities influence kids, but more than anything, adolescent peers are influenced by their peers.”

As a young person in recovery for over 10 years who works for a non-profit focusing on creating positive changes in prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for youth and families, Greg Williams has had professional and personal experiences that have given him a unique perspective on the importance of peer support in recovery programs for youth.

In an interview with The Prevention Researcher, Williams notes “Anywhere and everywhere that you convene a population of young people, you could have a peer support group. If you want to create a youth prevention message or a youth recovery group, ask the youth when and where and how and what they would like to talk about because if it isn’t relevant to them, they’re not going to engage in it. It’s so important to value them as equal partners and not just because we have all this education or we have all this information.”

Williams says that “Addiction is a chronic condition … unfortunately, we don’t have many systems in place to treat this chronic condition with chronic treatment. We’ve set up acute treatments in most communities to treat a chronic condition. It doesn’t make much sense, so peer support basically can enhance that treatment on not only the frontend, but also the backend … so on the frontend, I can help as a peer to engage kids into treatment, and then also on the backend after they leave, if the treatment provider has an agency or an organization or a list of peers in their group of the community that the youth is going back to, immediately there can be established connections for that young person to have a new social network, have connections in their community, to attend different kinds of meetings or positive recovery related stuff because so much of youth addition surrounds their peers.”

Williams also notes that technology can play an important role in peer support. He says “we need to foster positive peer culture online through social movements, through peer to peer support and really harness the power that this technology brings in terms of uniting youth in recovery.”

In rural areas and other places throughout the country, “young people might enter recovery, want to stay in recovery, but they can’t actually access or find other young people who want to live the same way in their local community, so they need to access people online and through technology to really feel that peer validation and that peer support that comes with connecting with other peers living the same way that you are. And then obviously, it has to be non-punitive. We need to value lived experience.”

“Young people are in recovery in record numbers, and we need our system as a whole – our education system, our criminal justice system, our healthcare system – needs to start looking to be creative and innovative to harness the power that young people bring, and give them outlets,” concludes Williams.

For a copy of the complete interview with Greg Williams on “Peer Support in Drug and Alcohol Recovery”, link directly to The Prevention Researcher or http://www.tpronline.org

About The Prevention Researcher

Founded in 1994, The Prevention Researcher is published by the non-profit, Integrated Research Services in Eugene, Oregon. The quarterly journal focuses on successful adolescent development and serves professionals who work with young people in a variety of organizational settings.

Each issue of The Prevention Researcher covers a single topic, presenting the latest adolescent behavioral research and findings on significant issues facing today’s youth. The journal provides information about programs that create supportive environments for youth, strategies for preventing problems affecting adolescents, and resources that help youth-serving professionals.

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Todd Peterson
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