In January 2019 Recovery Connections commissioned an independent piece of work to consult with people who are accessing – or have accessed - the Community Recovery element of our work.
In many respects, this was a companion piece to the consultation undertaken with people accessing our Quasi Rehab Programme, which was undertaken in November 2018.
The consultation aimed to address a number of key areas, including the following:
- Routes into Recovery Connections.
- Potential barriers to accessing Recovery Connections.
- Explore the work undertaken at Recovery Connections and the progress of participants.
- Strengths and weaknesses of Recovery Connections.
The service was also discussed with participants within the context of CHIME, which is based on the work of Leamy et al (2011) :
Connectedness: How the service impacted on participants having good relationships and being connected to other people in positive ways.
Hope and Optimism: How the service impacted on hope and optimism that recovery is possible and the relationships that support this.
Identity: In what way did participants feel the service had helped them to regain a positive sense of identity and help to overcome stigma.
Meaning: In what way did participants feel that they now live a meaningful and purposeful life – as defined by themselves.
Empowerment: A focus on strengths, taking personal responsibility and control of their life.
Two focus groups were held with nine participants.
The report made a number of findings, including the following:
Routes into, and beyond, Recovery Connections
There are a number of routes into Recovery Connections. Referral via MRT demonstrates a strong pathway through the local system of services and indicates that there is good local knowledge across the partnership services of Recovery Connections. Many journeys start with an appointment at a GP Practice and had culminated with access to Recovery Connections. Similarly, onward referrals from Recovery Connections were regarded as important.
Whilst the service was regarded as welcoming, open and warm, it was evident that, for some, a key challenge was initiating contact with Recovery Connections - ‘walking through the door’ - and reaching out for help. This may be due to ‘pride’, shame, guilt, a sense of failure - or a myriad of other reasons. The challenge for Recovery Connections, as with many other services within the sector, is to minimise these perceived barriers.
Many participants had initially accessed Recovery Connections through a SMART meeting, based within the service. The meeting provides initial access to the service and then provides an opportunity to build trust and relationships and open up opportunities to other elements of the service. Participants liked the setting of the SMART meeting, had built relationships and friendships during these meetings and the meetings had also provided a means through which they could speak to a Recovery Connections worker.
A recovery-focused environment
There was a sense amongst participants that a recovery-focused environment had been created within Recovery Connections. It was regarded as welcoming, friendly, safe, warm and ‘loving’. People feel supported and welcomed as soon as they walk through the door. This was also discussed within the context of the outside of the building. The smoking area outside the building was also discussed as an important place where people receive support and build relationships.
The connections and relationships built within Recovery Connections are a key factor when building a recovery-focused environment across the service. Indeed, the posters and information placed around the building were discussed in terms of reaffirming and supporting a consistent recovery message across the service.
Staff: A key strength of Recovery Connections
Staff had been key when creating a welcoming environment within the service. Indeed, staff were regarded as one of the key strengths of Recovery Connections.
Key qualities and attributes include:
- Life experiences with addiction and recovery
- Experience of working the 12 steps
- Go ‘above and beyond’ to help
- Strong confidentiality and information sharing skills
In many respects, the staff are regarded as role models and their approach to life is something that people accessing the service aspire to.
Making a Difference?
Many of the participants who we spoke to told us that they had addressed their alcohol and substance misuse and it was evident that their work at, and engagement with, Recovery Connections had played a significant role in helping them to maintain their sobriety.
Engagement with Recovery Connections had also made a difference to participants in a number of other ways:
Relationships, friendships, and connections had been built by participants when engaging with Recovery Connections. Initial engagement had opened up opportunities to other groups - such as gardening, cookery, arts and crafts, men’s groups - that further deepened and broadened a sense of connectedness. Genuine, positive and authentic relationships were regarded as important; therefore differentiating from some other connections and relationships. The important work of, and the proactive approach taken by, staff when promoting and encouraging involvement in other activities was discussed as important. Again, this demonstrates a good understanding of the individuals accessing the service and an instinct relating to what they may engage with.
Hope and Optimism
The power of being around, working with, and seeing other people doing well in recovery had a significant impact on the sense of hope and optimism of participants. The value of hearing the stories of others - and the opportunity to share one’s own story - was an important part of this process.
The opportunity of progression within Recovery Connections - as a volunteer, an Ambassador or a worker - and seeing people in recovery undertaking these roles, is a powerful daily reminder of possibility and hope.
Leamy et al (2011) Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22130746