By Craig Whalley
A new study just released in the respected “Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment” (JSAT) offers firm support for LifeRing’s approach to recovery support. The study, conducted by Dr. Sarah Zemore and others from the Emeryville, California-based Alcohol Recovery Group, used a series of member surveys to provide comparisons between LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and Women for Sobriety (WFS), using criteria and methodology much like those used in studies of 12-step programs.
Some of the most encouraging language comes from the study’s carefully-worded Conclusion: “Results suggest differences across 12-step groups and their alternatives that may be relevant when advising clients and a choice of mutual help group. Meanwhile, findings for high levels of participation, satisfaction, and cohesion among members of the mutual help alternatives [emphasis ours] suggest promise for these groups in addressing addiction problems.”
In other words, treatment providers, whose first and only impulse often is to urge all clients to attend 12-step programs, should consider suggesting the alternative groups on an equal footing or at the very least for those clients resistant to the quasi-religious and strongly-regimented approach of 12-step groups. In all 3 so-called “alternative” groups, members demonstrated at least the same level of success as has been measured in AA programs.
A summary of the study can be viewed here. The complete study currently lives behind JSAT’s pay-wall and can be purchased from them for $35.95, but we hope to be able to put it on our website soon. If that’s not possible, then we’ll at least offer as many more details about it as we can.
Of course, the fact that LSR is shown to work very well for many members comes as no surprise to those members! But the larger recovery community, especially including the medical professionals and treatment providers, have often resisted offering multiple paths to sobriety, either out of ignorance or from a firm conviction that “AA is the only way”.
The study shows convincingly that such resistance is misguided. One study is unlikely to change things quickly, but it is certainly a major step forward in legitimizing LifeRing and other secular recovery groups.