In most human endeavors, some things work and others don’t. Substance abuse worksheets work. In some activities, it doesn’t matter so much what you choose. But in facilitating substance abuse groups, you can gain allies or make enemies by a simple word or two. The old axiom, at least “Do no harm,” applies here: You can lose an alcoholic’s interest in recovery or actually make him/her more likely to relapse with the wrong interventions. Here are some do’s and do not’s gleaned from my experiences with alcoholics and the drug dependent over many years. I hope they’ll be helpful to you.
Let’s start by looking at what not to do. The big five:
- Don’t lecture. In treatment circles, it’s called Didactic. Whatever you call it, don’t do it. Nobody loves a lecture, and substance abusers hate to be told anything.
- Don’t run a therapy group. Through self-disclosure is good for the soul and can help people bond, it doesn’t give people the information they need to achieve and maintain sobriety.
- Don’t tell war stories. People new to abstinence, especially young people, enjoy talking about just how drunk they got and what crazy stuff happened. Substance groups are about how bad drinking is, not how fun or funny.
- Don’t run an AA meeting. That’s what AA is for.
- Don’t get in the faces about what bad drunks or druggies they are. Of course you need to challenge them, but, though tempting, it doesn’t work to beat them up.
Open up the next window to tell them the Do’s of running substance abuse groups. Now the Do’s of running groups.
- Do tell them your own story. Don’t make it too long, just enough for them to know you get it about alcohol and drugs.
- Do require them to talk openly and accurately about what they used, how much, and how long, and do it often.
- Do require them describe consequences of their use.
- Do have a check every session. Identify a topic each time such as the greatest threat to their sobriety, the biggest benefit of sobriety, what they’ve learned about themselves from AA or from this group. Do not let the check-ins take the whole time of the session. If they go too long, people get bored and your group loses its effectiveness. You may have to interrupt if someone gets too long-winded or prod others to talk.
- Do use worksheets in which every group member has to answer the questions. Then get them to talk about their responses. Worksheets work because everybody has to think, they compare answers, and you have on-topic discussions. There are many good sources of substance abuse worksheets including those on this website.