Citation for below: The Alternative Peer Group
A Developmentally Appropriate Recovery Support Model for Adolescents
Angela Nash, PhD, CPNP-PC, PMHS m Crystal Collier, PhD, LPC-S
An APG is a developmentally appropriate recovery support service for adolescents experiencing SUD. Positive recovering peers support recovery and model healthy behavior choices by reinforcing recovery and other prosocial behaviors. One of the first lessons peer role models teach new adolescents is how to have fun in recovery. APG youth staff members (i.e., young people in recovery) assist the counselors in shaping recovery norms by engaging with clients as mentors, facilitating peer- led groups, and engaging in and monitoring prorecovery social activities and after school hangouts. As new APG members gain time in the program, they are taught and held responsible for becoming a leader in their community. These adolescents are asked to sit on committees that may plan and organize weekend prorecovery social functions or retreats. As the adolescent develops friendships and becomes more invested in the community, the social pressure to maintain prosocial behavior grows. Many adolescents report their desire to be honest about past relapses and behavioral regressions peaks during and after intense retreats, where adolescents spend days together engaged in prorecovery social activities such as mountain trips or beach weekends. The adolescent’s family receives similar social modeling from more experienced parents and APG counseling staff by participating in multifamily and parent groups. New families are encouraged to listen and follow the advice of families who have ‘‘been there’’ with their children. More experienced families model and reinforce new family norms that support recovery. Many APG counseling staff members are persons in long-term recovery from adolescent SUD. Thus, they provide examples of successful adult lives born from a tumultuous adolescence. Hope arises for new families as they observe adult and youth staff model Engaging and fun counselors and youth staff share their experiences, strength, and hope for recovery in a climate that accepts the adolescents no matter where they are in the process.Sustained immersion in counseling and structured fun activities lead to bonding with positive peers. The powerful social influence of recovery role models facilitates development of prosocial attitudes and positive coping skills, leading to self-efficacy for personal recovery. Gradually, the adolescent internalizes the language and cognitive processes of recovery (I can’t “unknow” what I have learned while sober).
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