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Using "Sober Support" Groups In Your Juvenile Court

NCJ Number
Margaret L. Borg; Susan James-Andrews; Jacqueline van Wormer, M.A.; Guy A. Wheeler; Susan A. Yeres, Ed.D.
Date Published
March 2010
16 pages
This technical assistance brief guides juvenile court judges in making the best use of "sober support" (support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) for youth with alcohol and drug abuse problems.
This guide notes that although "sober support" serves as a valuable addition to traditional drug and alcohol treatment, not all youth need or benefit from this level of support or intervention. Information and suggestions are offered that can help in deciding which youth might benefit the most from "sober support." Research has found that youth with a longer history of substance use and greater addiction severity are more likely to attend and benefit from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). This suggests, however, that since serious addiction is rare among substance-involved youth in the juvenile justice system, most youth do not meet the criteria for referral to AA or NA. A second finding is that "sober support" is most effective when it engages youth and offers opportunities to interact with peers. Case managers must explore with each youth his/her impression and experience of the AA/NA group in which he/she is involved. This guide further advises that two to three sessions of "sober support" per week may be optimal for adolescents, rather than daily attendance. Other advice is that the spiritual focus of AA/NA groups may engage adolescents who are seeking a sense of connectedness; and all youth must have the choice between AA/NA and secular programs. This brief outlines issues to consider before requiring youth to attend "sober support" groups and steps to take when an appropriate "sober support" network is not available in the community. Also included are listed descriptions of "sober support" options and a review of case law on "sober support" groups. 18 notes and 20 suggested readings