The Role That Peers Play in Active Recovery

Peer and Family, Recovery, Substance Abuse

Recovery is not easy, but peer support programs help drastically.

When someone who is in active recovery engages with someone who has successfully recovered from substance dependence, they see that recovery is possible.

The Importance of Social Support in Recovery

Social support is critical when it comes to recovery from substance dependence. Multiple studies have found that individuals with stronger social support networks stay in treatment longer, have better recovery outcomes, and are less likely to return to substance use. What’s more important to note is that the type of social support also matters. If even one person in the individual’s life is supportive of continued substance use, that may have a stronger influence on recovery than having one person who’s supportive of abstinence. That’s why having social support that is pro-recovery is so important to the recovery process.

What is Peer Support? 

Peer support is a type of social support that uses peers – individuals who share the experiences of addiction and recovery, either directly or as family members or significant others – to support those who are in the early stages of recovery. Through its Recovery Community Services Program (RCSP), SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) funds grant projects across the country to develop and deliver peer support programs.

These peer recovery support services help individuals to become and stay more engaged throughout the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse.

Because these programs are designed and delivered by peers who have gone through recovery themselves, and come out of it successfully, they are very effective. People just starting out in recovery can benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who have successfully recovered. Peer support programs also inspire feelings of hope – hearing the story of someone else who has successfully recovered gives individuals the positive mindset and confidence they need to succeed themselves.

The Different Types of Social Support

Peer support programs provide participants with emotional support and encouragement, validation, information, and other supports as needed. Peer support workers (or volunteers) can provide four different types of support to individuals in recovery:


Empathy and camaraderie


Connections to information and referrals to community resources that can help them throughout the recovery process and help them to improve their overall wellbeing.


Concrete supports like assistance with housing or employment


Connections to community supports, activities, and events that support recovery

Peer Programs That Provide Social Support for Those in Recovery 

There are many peer support programs throughout the United States. In Virginia, there are several regional programs that you can access if you or someone you know could use some help or guidance throughout the recovery process.

Virginia Alcoholics Anonymous 

One of the most well-known peer support groups is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This group allows people going through recovery from alcohol abuse to meet regularly to listen to peers, tell their own stories, and to find support and understanding from others.

Find out more about Virginia Alcoholics Anonymous here.

Virginia Narcotics Anonymous 

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) serves the same purpose as AA, but is designed for those struggling with drug abuse. 

Find out more about Virginia Narcotics Anonymous here.

SAARA of Virginia 

SAARA (Substance Abuse and Addiction Recovery Alliance) of Virginia offers several programs for those in recovery, including peer support. They also offer family support groups and Young People in Recovery groups. Recovery group meetings are available online or in-person. SAARA also offers regular events as part of their Young People in Recovery program, so young people who are in recovery don’t have to feel like they have to give up socializing in order to recover, but can instead socialize with peers in recovery.

Find out more about SAARA of Virginia here.

Region Five Peer and Family Support

If you live in the Region Five area of Virginia, we are your point-of-access for peer support. Our Peer Recovery Specialists all have lived experience with a mental health issue (emotional or mental distress), substance use or addiction recovery, or both (co-occurring), and are in successful and ongoing recovery. Peer Support Services and Family Support Partners use their lived experience to support another person’s exploration of recovery based services that can help them overcome the impact of mental illnesses or substance use disorders.

Access Region Five Peer and Family Support here.

Recovery is Worth It 

Overcoming substance dependence is often a long and difficult journey, but the outcome – personal freedom – is worth it. If you or someone you know is in recovery or is interested in beginning the process, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Community programs can make the difference when it comes to successful recovery, and peer support is particularly effective.

Do You Need Help Now? 

If you need help right away, call our crisis line at 757-656-7755. Go here to learn more about our crisis call center. If you have a 757 area code, you can also reach someone by dialing or texting 988. We can help, even if you think that you can’t afford help for mental health. Our goal is to ensure that all members of the Region Five area of Virginia can access the help they need. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help today.

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