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Home > Facilitating access to mutual aid. Three essential stages for helping clients access appropriate mutual aid support.

Public Health England. (2013) Facilitating access to mutual aid. Three essential stages for helping clients access appropriate mutual aid support. London: Public Health England.

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Mutual aid groups are a source of structure and continuing support for people seeking recovery from alcohol or drug dependence, and for those directly or indirectly affected by dependence, such as partners, close friends, children and other family members. The evidence base shows that clients who actively participate in mutual aid are more likely to sustain their recovery, and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that treatment staff routinely provide information about mutual aid groups and facilitate access for those who want to attend (NICE, 2007; NICE, 2011; NICE, 2012). In working towards compliance with NICE quality standards, local commissioners and service providers will seek to ensure that facilitating access to mutual aid is supported within the local recovery system and that keyworkers recognise it as an integral part of their role.

Keyworkers must give thought to the way they approach the subject of mutual aid with their clients because the evidence shows that simply providing information and leaving them to make contact often results in them either never attending or quickly dropping out (Humphreys, 1999). A more active approach involves services promoting and hosting local meetings, holding explicit and structured conversations with clients, and setting care-planned goals around attending and engaging. Evidence shows that this kind of approach is usually more effective (Timko et al., 2006).

Some specialist interventions have been developed to help clients engage with specific mutual aid organisations (eg, 12-step facilitation, SMART Recovery Partnership programme and other structured programmes). However, these protocols require specialised training, which is usually delivered over eight to 12 weekly sessions in a group setting. This document provides keyworkers with a pragmatic intervention adapted from an evidence-based approach to facilitating access to mutual aid, using their existing skills in regular one-to-one key-work sessions. It focuses on holding explicit and structured conversations with clients, and setting care-planned goals around attending and engaging in mutual aid programmes.


About the mutual aid self-assessment tool:
This self-assessment tool has been developed to support local authority partnerships to improve their understanding of the availability of mutual aid locally, to identify any gaps that may exist and to highlight any potential barriers that may need to be overcome. The information gathered as a result of its undertaking will enable partnerships to develop a local action plan that ensures they are taking steps towards fostering effective links between treatment services and local mutual aid groups, and ensuring that all clients have the opportunity and encouragement to access a mutual aid programme of their choice.

It is suggested that local commissioners of alcohol and drug services lead on this mutual aid self-assessment. The quality of the self-assessment is likely to be enhanced by completing it in close collaboration with local treatment providers, service user representatives and where possible representatives of local mutual aid groups.

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