Different Recovery Groups

Recovery Groups Vary in Focus and Method

For a long time, my husband and I assumed that most recovery groups must be pretty similar. We participated in and later led in the same recovery group for almost ten years and never attended other groups. But, we moved to Texas and have since discovered that there can be very big differences from one group to another. Groups differ in their focus, goals, methods, expectations, and so on. They are not small differences, as you will see. In general, there are three types of recovery groups: curriculum groups, support groups, and discipleship groups. Let’s take a look at each one.

Curriculum Groups

One very popular type of group is what we call curriculum groups. These groups are centered around a curriculum. Think Bible study curriculum group with more accountability, and that is a pretty accurate description of what these groups look like. The group ends when the curriculum workbook is complete. This can range from a few months to a year or more.

Who leads?

I have heard it said in these groups that the curriculum is the teacher. They are typically led by facilitators, who are instructed that they should not consider themselves leaders but rather guides to help everyone stay on track with the curriculum. Sometimes they are led by counselors. Many counselors have developed curriculum workbooks they use to lead groups, and they often sell their materials for others to utilize.

What are the requirements?

These groups normally require participation with the curriculum and adherence to a set of group rules. They often have a limited open date, meaning they only allow new participants for a few weeks and then they close it to new participants until the next cycle.

What is the interaction with other members?

These groups typically allow limited feedback and often include some accountability, though also limited. Sometimes feedback is prohibited. The focus is on sharing. Often, calling each other during the week is encouraged.

Largely, these groups encourage self-discovery through reading and answering the homework questions on one’s own during the week and then sharing some of those answers with the group, as well as listening to other people’s answers.

Support Groups

Another very common group format is what we call support groups. This is probably the one most people are familiar with. This type is often portrayed in the movies where everyone sits in a circle and says the serenity prayer. This is by far the most popular group style. The focus of these groups is largely the development of a community of people that have similar struggles. The groups are ongoing, and people are often encouraged to attend support groups for life.

These groups typically include several readings, such as the serenity prayer; a lesson with questions that allow people to share; and an opportunity for each person to share briefly (normally 3-5 minutes) about their week.

Who leads?

Similar to curriculum groups, these groups are led by facilitators whose purpose is to make sure the group stays on track. Normally, the facilitators are given almost minute-by-minute instructions for the group readings and format. It is exceptionally structured.

What are the requirements?

There are no requirements to attend. They simply require that you follow the group rules. Normally, these groups are open, meaning that new participants can join at any time.

What is the interaction with other members? 

Feedback is not allowed, so there is not necessarily interaction with the other members, though the facilitator may encourage calling each other outside of group.

The general focus of these groups is building community and a place to share without feedback. It centers around being with people that share similar struggles. Often, these groups encourage sponsorships/mentorships and/or counseling in addition to group.  Sponsorships/mentorships vary from group to group. Some are one-on-one. Some are similar to curriculum groups.

Discipleship Groups

Another not so common type is the discipleship-focused group. Though I am sure there are others out there, I have only seen this format in the group we came from and in the one we started: Foundations Texas. These groups are focused on sharing and receiving feedback. The groups are ongoing, and people are welcome to join at any point. However, attending as a participant is not meant to be for life. People are encouraged to grow by both attending groups and doing an intensive discipleship program and then move forward with whatever God asks them to do.

There is not a set curriculum in the groups, though various curriculums might be used. These groups normally involve a discussion-based lesson and a time of getting current. Getting current involves 2-3 people breaking off into smaller groups to share and receive feedback. Each person has an opportunity to share and receive feedback and also listen and give feedback to others.

Who leads?

This type of group cannot be led by facilitators. It must be led by leaders. The leaders need to have a solid foundation built through constant growth and a dedication to surrendering every area of their lives to the Lord. They must be stable and humble. These leaders must be ready to answer the tough questions and help people see truth. We say: “You can’t lead people farther than you’ve gone yourself.” Most importantly, they need to be dedicated to following God’s guidance in how to work with each person and in how to best give feedback.

What are the requirements?

Nothing is required to simply attend the meetings except adherence to some basic rules, but people are strongly encouraged to also pursue the discipleship program. The program involves intensive requirements and some set curriculum and assignments. But, different avenues will be taken as needed. The goal is not to complete a curriculum. The goal is discipleship using whatever means necessary, and that will look different for each person. Generally, the program takes about 2-3 years to complete. Those in the program are required to attend multiple meetings each week.

What is the interaction with other members? 

Giving and receiving feedback is a key element of this group. This is done in group and people are also encouraged to make daily calls to others in the group for this purpose. The general focus of this group is sharing the truth in love with one another through discipleship.

So, there you have it. Those are in general the three types of recovery groups. My encouragement to you if you are looking for a group is to find one that includes the Biblical element of feedback: speaking the truth in love, exhorting one another. Exhorting includes calling someone to one’s side, summoning, encouraging, admonishing, and entreating.

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”-Hebrews 3:13

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” – Ephesians 4:15