Recovery Solutions developing in Vermont.

One of the advantages of the regular meetings attended by all of the members of the Vermont Recovery Center Network is the potential to more broadly disseminate effective models of peer-support services.  This level of peer support has helped to advance Vermont’s recovery center movement by providing the centers with models of peer support that go well beyond AA, NA & other peer to peer groups. These concepts of peer to peer recovery have expanded out from the original 12-step models and now our challenge is to honor the traditions of these programs while being inclusive of other populations who don’t all necessarily view recovery as a “spiritual solution” but who need and deserve to benefit from help and support. The members of the Vermont Recovery Center Network are not affiliated with AA, NA, or any other approach to recovery; their mission is to provide a safe, supportive, substance free environment, which is welcoming to everyone seeking recovery.

Recovery Solutions:

Recovery center staff and volunteers in all centers are improving their responsiveness in assisting people seeking recovery or trying to maintain recovery and prevent relapses.  Being welcoming and supportive, encouraging people to ask questions (explaining that it is okay to ask for help), making suggestions about other supports or services that might be helpful, being a good listener while gently encouraging people to focus on solutions instead of problems, and introducing newly recovering people to others, in order to make them feel like they are being welcomed into a supportive environment are some of the many examples of providing recovery solutions. These peer to peer, mentoring based services help people to move past abstinence and grow to reach their potential through focusing on assets and addressing deficits. This evolving model is the core of Vermont’s Recovery Center service delivery approach.

Making Change: 

This program, developed in the Upper Connecticut River Valley area of Vermont and New Hampshire, is aimed at engaging young people involved with substances.  The program brings together groups of youth for peer support and has induced many to enter into the recovery process.

Core Services
The basic element of any recovery support service is empathetic support. We encourage people to speak their truths to help us learn who they are, and we ask questions to help discover what will be helpful to them in making the life changes the recovery process involves. The core element of services the Vermont Recovery Network provides is meeting people where they are; then we ask increasingly relevant and thought-provoking questions, and listen to the person who is exploring the personal change we call recovery.

Once we have helped people tease out the initial personal challenges they will need support in addressing, we begin assisting them in this process. We provide living proof that they can overcome these challenges. In some cases, we help them consider and connect with other services. During this process, we help them develop clarity about just how badly addictions have affected their lives. We help them understand the importance of developing networks of supporters. Changing the attitudes and actions that keep people stuck in addictive cycles requires ongoing support.

Success in recovery involves moving from a peer group that supports addiction to a peer group that supports recovery. Until people have clarity about how badly addictions have damaged the fabric of their lives, they are likely to slip back into the use cycles that supported their addictive lifestyle. Developing a desire to change this lifestyle grows with peer support, as people discover the hard truth about how addictions have harmed their lives. We focus on people’s assets and strengths to help them avoid getting stuck in looking at their pasts and to support the process of planning futures built on opportunities for growth in recovery. Volunteers and staff at recovery centers reinforce this process for people on all paths to recovery.

Recovery centers are open to everyone seeking recovery and do not promote any particular recovery approach. While maintaining safe, supportive, drug- and alcohol-free environments, we make space available to recovery groups to hold meetings and try to serve as incubators and focal points for expanding community recovery options. We cooperate with the 12-step recovery fellowships that rent space in our centers and other locations, while at the same time, we make every effort to avoid direct or perceived affiliation with these 12-step fellowships. We also provide support for the development of other peer-based recovery groups and recovery support services.

Recovery Support Services

Vermont recovery centers have adopted and developed additional recovery support services and used them across our Network. Our centers need trained staff and volunteers to deliver these services and perform outreach to find people who want or need recovery supports. Network centers do not have sufficient staff to deliver most of these services, but the following models have proven valuable at the centers that have the necessary trained personnel to offer them

Recovery Coaching

A Recovery Coach creates a partnership with people in recovery from addictions. A coach helps people to: create a vision for their recovery; identify and remove barriers to recovery; navigate through the human services system; access community resources; connect with recovery services, including treatment facilities, recovery centers, and mutual support groups. A coach works with people who have active addictions, people who are already in recovery, or with people who are concerned about someone else’s substance abuse. People who participate in the recovery coaching process must have a commitment to recovery. All conversations are confidential.
The Vermont Recovery Network’s recovery centers have taken an active role in developing and approving standards and documents for the provision and supervision of recovery coaching in recovery center environments. These materials are based on principles from literature on recovery support and our experience to date. We are committed to assuring that recovery coaches receive ongoing skill development beyond the initial 30 hours of training we require. The Network has developed a structured interview and recruitment process that only selects qualified and appropriate applicants for the recovery coach training. Our recovery coaching protocols serve as a formalized process for providing this new level of service. The Network developed job descriptions for recovery coach coordinators and recovery coaches to assure sufficient supervision and staff support. Our Network Coordinator works directly with all of our programs on implementation, and our oversight process supports centers that may experience difficulties.

Making Recovery Easier (Evidence-Based Practice)

 The Vermont Recovery Network has been working with one of the developers of Making Alcoholics Anonymous Easier (MAAEZ), Lee Ann Kuskutas, as we implement this evidence-based practice in recovery center settings. The model was demonstrated to be effective using the title “Making Alcoholics Anonymous Easier” (MAAEZ), but confusion around the use of the name “Alcoholics Anonymous” in the title prompted a change to the title of Making Recovery Easier when utilizing the model in recovery settings as a peer-led recovery support group. We have been following the research-proven curriculum outlined in documents available on the Centers Site section of our website. The model (attached) and the peer-reviewed article demonstrating its effectiveness are available by clicking on Making Recovery Easier at
Seeking Safety Practice Groups (Evidence-Based Practice):
Peer facilitation of the Seeking Safety exercises and practice materials Lisa Najavits developed serves as the basis for supports that specifically address the needs of those who have experienced traumatic events in the past or who live with the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and addiction recovery issues. The Network has used the Seeking Safety materials, developed as a treatment approach, after consultation with Lisa Najavits, who initially expressed interest in considering the outcomes of these efforts when provided by experienced peer facilitators. She has since changed her materials to reflect Seeking Safety’s value as a resource for peer support.
Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) (Evidence-Based Practice)
Many recovery workers in Vermont Recovery Centers have been trained in using Mary Ellen Copeland’s evidence-based Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) model, which is consistent with the “recovery solutions” training. Here’s a link to the SAMHSA EBP and the Copeland Center in Brattleboro

All-Recovery Meetings

This topic discussion model, pioneered in Connecticut, has proven to be very effective. The facilitated group sharing is not focused on specific problems (drugs, alcohol, gambling, codependency, etc.) but on sharing the concepts of living comfortably in recovery, such as living in the solution, approaching one thing at a time, managing ego deflation, and seeking support for problems.

Recovery Is the Solution

Recovery Is the Solution groups are under development in Vermont’s recovery centers. These peer-led recovery support groups explain recovery and make it an attractive goal. A series of six groups introduces the recovery process and the tasks it involves; demonstrates benefits and examples of lived recovery; familiarizes participants with community recovery centers; and introduces cultures and approaches that support recovery. Participants learn that the benefits of recovery go far beyond the cessation of use and relief from the symptoms of withdrawal. People new to the recovery process often do not know what recovery is or why they would want to make any effort toward this life-changing process. Participants are engaged to consider how they might want to approach recovery and motivated to consider a recovery process that will meet their needs. Sessions provide support for finding new peer groups, developing clarity about the effects of addictions, creating hope, improving quality of life, and developing a renewed enthusiasm for life.

Making Change

 This program, developed by Robert Bryant, was piloted at the original Turning Point Center in White River. Making Change has now spread across Vermont to other centers and into community settings. It was created to engage young people whose lives have been impacted by alcohol and/or other drug use, either their own or someone else’s. Making Change brings together groups of youth for non-confrontational peer support, and it has induced many to enter into the recovery process.

Wit’s End

This support group for parents was founded in Rutland, Vermont, by the Martins, parents of a young woman who died of addiction. The facilitated group is for adults who are concerned about some young person’s use of alcohol and/or other drugs. The model has been most commonly implemented by a peer leader who is supported by a trained interventionist or therapist. In cases where limited resources have precluded the use of paid clinicians as group leaders, groups have functioned with voluntary clinical leaders or evolved into NarAnon/AlAnon–style peer support groups.

Medication-Assisted Recovery (MARS) Groups

 Centers have tried several times to establish core groups of individuals involved in medication-assisted recovery. Attempts at forming these groups have lost momentum over time due to lack of strong facilitators and a cohesive peer-to-peer model to follow. Centers have not had sufficient resources to maintain trained peers on staff who have time to organize, facilitate, and refine group approaches.

Co-occurring Support Groups

Peer workers have struggled to sustain co-occurring support groups in centers across the Network. The Double Trouble 12-step approach to recovery from addiction(s) and mental disorders has been used in Bennington and Brattleboro by members of their recovering communities who identify as being dually diagnosed. People are interested in helping to spread this approach. Dual Recovery Anonymous groups have been held in Burlington and White River.

Vet to Vet

This peer support program serves veterans and emphasizes support for issues such as reintegration, substance abuse, PTSD, and mental health; centers across the state have hosted this program when facilitators and participants have expressed an interest. Currently, a lack of trained facilitators exists, and the once-prominent organizational structure that supported the facilitators of these support meetings is less evident.

Drug Court Groups

 Recovery centers have been hosting peer-led, facilitated Drug Court Groups. The format varies, but generally, the groups meet once a week and serve as a way for those involved to be introduced to recovery environments and the concepts of peer-based recovery support.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) Practice Groups
These peer-led groups for refining and practicing the skills outlined in the Non-Violent Communication model have taken place in several centers.

Building Mind, Body & Spirit

 Centers have hosted life skills groups focused on the following topics: financial planning, cooking & diet, nutrition, exercise groups, yoga, reiki, art groups, reading groups, and introductions to various spiritual practices.

Mindfulness / Communication Groups

Peer-led practice groups that employ mindfulness exercises and work on refining communication skills have employed group-directed choices in picking topics for weekly discussions/sharing sessions. These groups include meditation and relaxation exercises.

Writing Groups

 Recovery centers have hosted a variety of writing groups. Groups have focused on creative writing, writing as an aid to recovery, and journaling. Some writing groups have focused on practical writing, such as resume writing and developing competitive job applications.

Planned Group Recovery Activities

 All the centers in the Network provide for planned group recovery activities. These activities range from concerts, dinners, lectures, and boat cruises, to Recovery Month Celebrations, recovery walks, hikes, and gubernatorial candidate debates.

Nurturing Parents Program

 This program teaches age-specific parenting skills which address the need to nurture one self. Training of peer leaders has been provided by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

Rocking Horse Circle of Support

(Evidence-Based Practice):

This group intervention is for mothers 18 to 35 years of age. This program can be a peer-led intervention group promoting parenting skills, building self-esteem, and reducing substance use. This approach has also been professionally led. This SAMHSA model program has been peer-led at centers.

Note: Recovery centers do not provide formal assessments, specify any particular level of care, provide clinical services, monitor abstinence, maintain client records, or dispense medications. Although we employ people with experience in recovery who are trained in delivering recovery support services, we discourage the power differentials that exist between experts and “clients.” We refer to our guests as visitors, people in recovery, guests, or recoverees.







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