Mutual Aid What Is It?


“What is Mutual Aid?”
Mutual Aid is a term used to describe a range of support groups where people with drug or alcohol issues discuss their problems and look after each other. There are many different types . . . . Alcoholics Anonymous being a famous example.  This works on the principle that through sharing your own experiences with others in the group you will offer support and help to one other.

This sounds like ‘group working’!

There is a difference. Professional facilitators do not run mutual aid meetings and there is no subject of the day. The meeting is organised by volunteers who are themselves in recovery.

So what actually happens?

People with drug or drink problems meet up and discuss their difficulties, feelings and experiences of recovery. Normally people take it in turns to talk for a bit about what is happening in their lives at that moment.  Meeting places are pre-arranged and attendance is free. People often have a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit afterwards.

“Is this another meeting of strangers sharing confidential information?”

Confidentiality is important and one of the most basic rules of Mutual Aid meetings. What’s said in the meeting stays in the meeting is the general rule.

Does it really work?

Yes! However, it is best to discuss things in general terms rather than be too specific. Some very personal issues may best be discussed with your keyworker or counsellor, rather than with your peers in a meeting.

“How will taking to others help me?”

You will be surprised how many people share a similar story to you. Listening to others who are also dealing with addiction problems helps you to realise that you are not alone.

Why is that important?

It’s very easy when you are in recovery or struggling with your substance use to feel very isolated and to think that you are the only one going through this; having these feelings, or simply that no one understands. Each person in the group will share their stories and experiences and in doing so other members of the group can identify with that person.  This is one of the ways we support each other in recovery.

“Is there a proper structure to this?”

Yes, although different meetings are run is slightly different ways. Some, like 12 step meetings have a formal structure than you can follow if you choose. Others, like SMART recovery meetings are centred on dealing with the specific problems of the individuals present.  Others are less formal.

How do I know which one is right for me?

There is information about various types of mutual aid meetings behind the green door. Why not try a few different meetings and see which type works best for you?