September 14, 2011

Recovery Inc: A Cognitive Tools Support Group

This a repost from two years ago.  I continue to believe in the potential effectiveness of this support group for people experiencing anxiety, depression and other disorders.

There's a little known but excellent support group resource available here in Austin, Texas and in hundreds of cities nationwide. It's called Recovery, Inc. It also goes by Recovery International.

The names are misleading which may explain the relative obscurity of the support group. Recovery is now a term that most people, including myself, associate with substance abuse recovery. But Recovery, Inc. is a self-help support group designed to assist people struggling with anxiety and depression. It can also help people with a variety of different psychological and emotional difficulties. For a list of the many struggles Recovery, Inc. can offer assistance with, click here. People who have alcohol and drug abuse issues can be helped, too, so long as their substance abuse is under control.

I assume the name confusion is why Recovery, Inc. has been undergoing some name changes. Their website tells me it is now being referred to as the Abraham Low Self Help Systems after the group's original creator, Abraham Low, M.D. You can read more, here.

But the name isn't so important. What matters is the group's core focus: teaching and helping group members persistently use cognitive skills to reduce symptoms.

I've had a few patients attend these groups. I have been consistently impressed with the quality of the skills taught there. I often refer my clients to the group in the hopes they will use it as a place to practice the cognitive skills learned in my individual therapy sessions, learn new skills above and beyond what our sessions have covered, and gain social support. I also refer individuals who are not attending therapy but would like some free-of-charge group support.
Recovery, Inc. teaches tools to help people cope better with situations that provoke unpleasant feelings and emotions. They call these tools "Recovery Language."
One typical example: Many people experience significant anxiety walking into a support group for the very first time. Anxiety that, for so many, is anticipated ahead of time to such an extent that they fail to go to the group at all. Typical thoughts are, "I won't know anyone and I'll feel stupid." "I won't know what to say." "I'll be too nervous to talk and then I'll look ridiculous." "What if I walk into the room and everyone stares at me?"

The anxiety, fed by these negative, fear inducing thoughts, can mount until one feels overwhelmed and stays home, or stays in the car and drives away.
Recovery language might encourage you to "spot" and replace these negative thoughts with more realistic and empowering ones, such as:

"These thoughts are distressing, not dangerous."

"It is perfectly average for someone to feel nervous when walking into a new group."

"I can do this. I am capable."
"I will move my muscles and start heading inside."

"Bear the discomfort and comfort will come."

For more examples of personal situations, use this link to get to the in the self-help forums.

I've had a few patients attend only one meeting. Their complaint was that they didn't quite "get it." As I understand the group format, members use Recovery Language and new people feel a bit lost and confused. My advice to patients is this: Plan to attend at least three groups. See if some of the initial confusion, which again is average (a recovery term) lessens over time. See if you don't start to feel a little more comfortable. Find out how you can learn the Recovery Language for yourself. You will likely be encouraged to buy a book but it isn't essential.
So take the first step. Move your muscles to use the following link to find the support group closest to you.
I would love to hear readers first hand experience with Recovery, Inc. so feel free to share in the comment section.