Double Trouble In Recovery: Peer Support And Self-Help
Julius Green
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The self help movement has been gaining greater recognition for the value of its ability to help people make positive changes and get support. Alcoholics Anonymous (A/A) was the first organized self help program to bring attention to the importance of individuals with similar issues who can provide each other with mutual support and solutions. A/A started over 65 years ago and has helped millions of individuals to improve the quality of their lives. Because of the success of A/A, many other self help groups have started using the same philosophy of self help such as Double Trouble in Recovery (DTR). DTR is a self help group based on the twelve steps of A/A. What makes DTR unique is that it is a self help group for the MICA (Mentally Ill and Chemically Addicted) population.

DTR provides mental health consumers who have a history of substance abuse with an environment of acceptance and empathy that may not be available at other traditional 12-step groups that deal with addictions such as A/A or Narcotics Anonymous (N/A). The reason that some mental health consumers may not be accepted or understood at A/A or N/A is because of stigma and lack of education about mental health issues among its members. Members of A/A or N/A may feel that because a mental health consumer is taking medication to remain stable, that the mental health consumer is not clean (without drugs in their system) or sober (in a sound state of mind) -- not to mention the stigma, stereotyping and insensitive comments that can make a person who is MICA feel disconnected to a group that they came to for support.

Self help and peer support are becoming more recognized in the mental health system as an integral part of a long lasting recovery process. Self help and peer support provide consumers with an opportunity to share and learn coping skills that help consumers to progress and grow in their recovery. Howie the Harp (Howard Geld) was at the forefront of advocating for mental health consumers to have access to self help, peer support and consumer-driven services. Howie the Harp founded the Howie the Harp Advocacy and Peer Specialist Training Center (HTH/PSC) in 1995 where peer specialists would be trained to provide self help skills, resource information and advocacy for their peers. Over the past five years HTH/PSC has trained over 100 mental health consumers to be peer specialists. More than 100 peer specialists are currently working in over 30 agencies/programs in NYC. One of the valuable services peer specialists provide is facilitating DTR meetings.

Peer specialists who have a MICA background are trained to be facilitators of DTR meetings at a weekly training provided by HTH/PSC over a nine-month period of time. Peer specialists who facilitate DTR meetings provide the peers with some very powerful messages. The positive messages transferred are that the MICA population can remain clean, sober and mentally stable with a support network that includes self help and peer support. Peer specialists also act as role models for their peer by showing their peers that a person who has MICA issues can progress to independent living and experience the satisfaction of being employed.

There are over 50 DTR meetings in the NYC area. Some of the sites where peer specialists have developed meetings are Community Access, Inc. (psychosocial club, housing), Metropolitan Hospital (inpatient), Pride of Judea, Manhattan State Psychiatric Center (STAIR unit), Harlem Hospital (day treatment program), Beth Israel Medical Center (inpatient), Mental Health Association, Mt. Sinai Medical Center (inpatient, vocational services), FEGS Riveredge Wards Island (MICA residence), Fort Washington Men's Shelter. A meeting list is available to inform the mental health community about the location of the more than 50 DTR meetings in NYC.
Members of A/A or N/A may feel that because a mental health consumer is taking medication to remain stable, that the mental health consumer is not clean (without drugs in their system) or sober (in a sound state of mind)
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