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Accountability vs. Support Groups

This is part 4 in a series on Accountability.  You can find the other posts here.

More and more churches are beginning to form groups to reach out to those suffering from addiction.  They might be called small groups, recovery groups, support groups, redemption groups.  You might drive by a church advertising their recovery groups.  Your counselor may recommend ‘group therapy’ or your youth leader might have a special group that meets after school on Tuesday evenings.

It seems like a great idea.  You get to meet weekly with people who understand where you are.  There is no judgment, just understanding, and you are working together to find freedom.  The curriculum can vary, from a Bible study to steps similar to those in AA.  It is structured, consistent, and focused.  It is exactly what you need.

While support groups do have a certain allure, they are not a substitute for accountability.  Community is important, and helping each other grow is very healing, but support groups, as great as they can be, still have characteristics that separate them from accountability.

Weaknesses of Support Groups

1. It is a group.

This is another one of those good, yet not-so-good things.  You may be glad to know that there are other people like you, and it may be helpful to meet up and talk with them.  However, in a group setting, there is only so much depth that can be had.

Imagine your recovery group met for 2 hours a week and there are 10 people in the group.  If you divide that up evenly, that is only 12 minutes per person, and that doesn’t leave room for the facilitator to talk.  If you have a 30 minute ‘lesson’ each week, then you are down to less than 10 minutes per person.  Ten minutes just is not a lot of time.

That, and groups allow for a certain level of anonymity, which is what gets many of us in trouble to begin with.

2.  They are often co-ed.

I don’t know how often I can stress the mutual non-benefit of co-ed sexual recovery groups.  It is far too easy for these groups to become pornographic themselves.  Some of you have even mentioned on the Facebook page the ‘dangers’ of men knowing which women might struggle sexually.

Imagine being an 18 year old girl in a recovery group with a 38 year old sex addict.  It just is an uncomfortable, and in my estimation, unsafe environment.

3.  They are often mixed.

These recovery groups are usually open to the broad category of ‘addiction’ or even ‘addiction and hurts.’  In one group you might have a cutter, an anorexic, a victim of rape, a victim of abuse, a sex addict, a drug addict, an alcoholic, the list goes on.  Stick all of those people in one room, and the level to which they can help each other is going to be limited.

How can a man who is fascinated with rape porn be of any benefit to a rape victim?  How can a victim of abuse help an alcoholic?  More than that, how can the leadership speak into all of those areas?

4.  Your group leader is not an accountability partner

This is not so much a weakness as it is reality.  This is something you have to understand about your group facilitator.  He or she likely runs this group in his or her spare time.  This is not something there is a lot of extra time for.  There are family commitments and a job that pulls for time.

Imagine if all ten of the group members wanted one hour a week for one-on-one time with the group facilitator plus daily 5 minute ‘checking in’ phone calls.  If you add that all up, plus the two hours with the group together, that is nearly 18 hours a week spent interacting with the group.  People just do not have that kind of time on top of sleep, job, family time, and other commitments.

Groups are not bad.  I want to emphasize that.

Groups are not bad, just like confession and counseling are not bad.  These can be very useful tools on your journey of freedom.  In fact, later in this series, we are going to talk about the strengths of all of those things and how to know when it might be best for you.

If you are considering a group right now, let me offer some thoughts:

  • Look for all-women’s groups led by women
  • Stick to small groups (nothing gets accomplished in a group of 50 women)
  • Look for structured groups- groups that have set start and end dates, that have limited enrollment, and require commitment (not a come-and-go whenever you feel like it)
  • Make sure it has direction- pick a group that works through a set course or curriculum not a group that just meets weekly to talk about their feelings.
  • Find a group that is limited in scope.  If you cannot find a group specifically for female sex addicts, then look for one that is limited to sexual healing or something in your own past.  Perhaps you are a victim of rape or abuse. There are groups out there for you and working through those issues could help you immensely with your current struggles.

Groups truly are a great tool, in fact, I am in the process of setting up a redemption group for women who struggle at my church!  Just remember, they are not the same as accountability.

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If you are interested in starting a group in your college or church, contact me.  I would be happy to share stories with you of other groups who have started successfully, offer you tips on how to set it up, as well as point you to resources you can use.

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