Pathways of Recovery

in Recovery
Published Sep 8, 2020
pathways of recovery

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an estimated 22 million Americans live in recovery from substance use disorders. In our last blog, we explained how people recover from addiction, and this blog highlights the main pathways of recovery.

Pathways of Recovery

According to the Recovery Research Institute, and a leading study on how people recover, pathways of recovery can be categorized into three main areas:

  1. Clinical pathways
  2. Non-clinical pathways
  3. Self-managed pathways

Clinical pathways of recovery

Clinical pathways of recovery involve professional intervention from a healthcare provider, clinician, or other credentialed professional. That includes inpatient addiction treatment, behavioral therapies, and medication-assisted treatment.

People who have been using substances (including alcohol) for a prolonged period of time, and may face complications stopping alone, would benefit from clinical intervention (read more about whether addiction treatment is right for you here). These services might include medically managed inpatient treatment at a medical detox center, clinically managed residential services, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization.

SAMHSA’s recommendations for detox

““For alcohol, sedative-hypnotic, and opioid withdrawal syndromes, hospitalization or some form of 24-hour medical care is generally the preferred setting for detoxification, based upon principles of safety and humanitarian concerns.”

– SAMHSA Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Improvement Protocol, TIP 45

Medication-assisted treatment includes medications like buprenorphine, methadone, naloxone, and naltrexone which can be used to treat opioid use disorders and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapies include a range of approaches and could include:  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, behavioral couples therapy, and family therapy.

Non-clinical pathways of recovery

Non-clinical pathways of recovery include peer-based recovery supports, recovery community organizations, educational supports, faith-and culture-based recovery supports, and recovery housing.

Mutual-aid supports: Many of these supportive groups focus on sharing recovery-related experiences and most often have a peer-led program of recovery, or educational groups. The organizations range in philosophies and principles; some are spiritual, others religious, some are secular and evidence-based, and others involve fitness. They include:

  • Recovery Dharma (a splinter group from Refuge Recovery, also based on Buddhism)
    SMART Recovery (evidence-based and secular)
  • Refuge Recovery (based on Buddhist principles)
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (12-step-based) — other 12-step groups include Cocaine Anonymous,
    Heroin Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery (secular)
  • The Phoenix (community-based, using CrossFit)
  • Moderation Management (not 12-step)
  • SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety)
  • Women for Sobriety

Faith and cultural recovery supports: These are much like peer support groups, but are for those who practice certain faiths or identify culturally with the values of certain organizations. They include: Wellbriety Movement, Celebrate Recovery, Milati Islam, Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others.

Educational recovery supports: The two main associations providing a supportive recovery environment for their students include the Association of Recovery in Higher Education, and the Association of Recovery High Schools.

Recovery housing:  Often referred to as Oxford Houses, or sober living homes, these facilities provide a safe, clean, and supportive environment for people transitioning out of formal treatment. You can find houses that have been certified through the National Alliance of Recovery Residences.

Recovery Community organizations: RCOs are recovery centers located within communities. At these centers, people in recovery can find a network of helpful recovery support services, including: peer-based meetings, peer mentor programs, referrals to support services, and social events.You can find your local RCO through the Association of Recovery Community Organizations.

Self-managed pathways of recovery

Put simply, self-managed pathways of recovery means that there is no formal process of recovery or help from professional services. Individuals who recover this way choose to create their own path of recovery and typically have not reached the acute stage of substance use disorder.