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Drug Alcohol Rehab Center and The Post-Treatment Benefits of Having a Sponsor

Drug Alcohol Rehab Center and The Post-Treatment Benefits of Having a Sponsor.

by James “Jimmy” Hovermale

Measuring the effectiveness of 12 step groups can be difficult given the anonymous nature of 12 step membership. Particularly challenging is studying the effects such groups have over time. But researchers Kelly, Greene, & Bergman did just that.  They studied a group of young adults over the course of a year after they completed a residential substance use treatment program.  The findings are truly important.

Of special interest to the researchers was the impact of the relationship between a sponsor and the individual being sponsored, the “sponsee.” Research regarding therapy in general has consistently found that the relationship between the therapist and the client is nearly as important as the type of therapy being offered to the client. This led researchers to wonder if the relationship between a sponsor and sponsee may play a similar role in the effectiveness of 12 step groups. This kinship between the sponsor and the sponsee is defined as a combination of trust and understanding the sponsee feels they receive from the sponsor.  As well, it is to what degree the sponsor both supports and is sensitive to the sponsee’s goals in recovery. It was hypothesized that better relationships with sponsors would be connected with better attendance and with group meetings and less substance use by the addict post-treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous logo rendered by Anamix for Wiki Commons

By Anamix  [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

During the twelve months following treatment researchers followed up with the individuals.  They contacted them during the 3, 6, and 12 month periods. Among the things they considered was whether an individual acquired a sponsor.  As well, the number of contacts with a sponsor, and the quality of the sponsor-sponsee alliance. Researchers found that individuals that acquired a sponsor did have better attendance and more involvement with 12 step groups. Also, they reported less substance use.

Drug Alcohol Rehab Center and The Benefits of Having a Sponsor After Treatment.

The contact with sponsor and sponsee were also associated with longer periods of clean time. In particular, for the sponsee, his or her involvement in 12 step groups was more strongly related to sponsor contact.  But the quality of that relationship appears to be especially important when it comes to abstinence from substance use. Notably, these effects increased over time. Also it is important to note that individuals were less likely to get a sponsor if they don’t do so soon after discharge. All of this highlights the importance of finding a sponsor that one can create a positive relationship with after completing treatment.

It should be noted that the participants in the study were not a particularly diverse group of individuals.  In addition, while in some cases his or her abstinence was tested through saliva samples, most people self-report.

So sponsorship has many benefits to the addict once they complete treatment.  This will help the individual get through the challenges of early recovery.  It will also make life much easier for them!  Moreover, it will give them a chance to live clean and sober!  Thus, they will not have to return to another drug alcohol rehab center.

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