Peer Support for Families

With almost three-quarters of all adults in Australia negatively affected by another person’s drinking, it is not surprising that demand for help and support among affected others has increased in recent years. Several groups based on the AA model are available in Australia for families affected by a family member’s drinking. While family members can sometimes attend some specialist drug and alcohol services that a family member is receiving treatment from, there are now support services where family members can access support in their own right (e.g., for coping skills, stress management, and linkage to referral and resources). The most well-established and widely available form of peer support for family members is Al-Anon, which is a mutual-aid recovery program focused on helping friends and family members develop their coping skills, manage emotional distress, and recover from the impact of living with someone whose drinking is a problem. See Al-Anon for information and details of meetings held across Australia. There is also Alateen – a peer support group specifically designed for teens or young Al-Anon members who have been affected by someone else’s drinking (see Alateen for more information and for details of meetings held across Australia).  

A new group run by SMART, called BeSMART, is an eight-week long family support program designed to help people affected by the addictive behaviours of someone close to them. The program aims to increase self-care and the adoption of helpful strategies for managing difficult and stressful circumstances, as well as promoting healthier relationships with the person using alcohol or drugs. There are face-to-face meetings held in some Australian cities (e.g., Sydney) and ongoing weekly meetings online. For more information and meeting schedules visit BeSMART.

Unfortunately, peer-support for family members has received scant research attention to date, and therefore there is limited evidence of its effectiveness, though qualitative studies, blog posts and testimonials suggest many family members find them to be helpful.  

Other independent forms of family support groups exist such as Family Drug Help in Victoria, run by Self Help Addiction Resource Centre(SHARC). Family Drug Support Australia offers family drug support online. There may be also be peer support groups specifically run for family members at the local alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatment service.

Chapter Recommendation Grade of recommendation
11.5 Peer support groups for families may improve outcomes for family members/significant others. GPP