Home > Improving mutual aid engagement: a professional development resource.

Public Health England. (2015) Improving mutual aid engagement: a professional development resource. London: Public Health England.

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Mutual aid refers to the social, emotional and informational support provided by, and to, members of a group at every stage of their recovery from active alcohol and/or drug use and addiction. It is not a peer support network. It relies upon a structured programme that is focused on recovery. Groups often include people who are abstinent and want help to remain so – these people are actively changing their behaviour using a programme of mutual aid. They also include people who are thinking about stopping and/or actively trying to stop their drug and alcohol use. Groups also exist to support families, children and friends affected by substance misuse.

The most common mutual aid groups in England include 12-step fellowships and SMART Recovery. The fellowships – eg, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and Al-Anon – are based on a 12-step self-help philosophy developed in the 1930s. Over 200 self-help organisations (with a wider focus than substance misuse) with a worldwide membership of millions now employ 12-step principles for recovery. SMART Recovery, although a relative newcomer to the field, is constantly expanding its network of self-help meetings in England. These meetings apply cognitive behavioural techniques and therapeutic lifestyle change to their mutual aid groups to help people manage their recovery.

This professional development resource sets out a range of skills, knowledge and experience recommended for people working in a treatment setting to help service users achieve their recovery goals by making sure they are aware of the importance of mutual aid as a positive social network and facilitating access to their group(s) of choice.

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