Options for addicts: New support group offers non faith-based treatment


GREENFIELD — A non-faith-based addiction support group has formed in Hancock County, giving residents who struggle with substance abuse a path to recovery not previously offered through free county treatment programs, officials said.

SMART Recovery, which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, gives participants tools to change their behavior that are based on the latest medical research into addiction behaviors, organizers said. Methods to reach patients are as varied as those who seek treatment, organizers said, including online message boards, in-person meetings, 24/7 chatroom sessions and more.

Local group sessions are free, open to the public and aim to help people recovering all types of addiction, said Betsy Duncan, a volunteer facilitating the local meetings. Hancock County’s meetings take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Saturdays at Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., Greenfield.

The program’s constantly evolving curriculum focuses on the latest behavioral research but generally focuses on a four-step model: helping patients cope with urges, providing methods to manage harmful behaviors; teaching addicts how to stay motivated to change; and empowering them to work toward a more balanced lifestyle, Duncan said.

Though drugs, alcohol and other substances are the most common topic addressed in the group therapy sessions, those suffering from gambling, sex and other additions as welcome to attend, Duncan said.

The county’s addiction experts say it’s important to provide a variety of resources to those who are struggling; in the past, the county has offered a number of faith-based programs but lacked options for those not comfortable incorporating religion with their treatment, said Kevin Minnick, a member of Hancock County Mental Health Partners, a local referral service for those struggling with mental health issues.

The county already hosts several free addiction recovery groups, but other local programs draw their lessons from a religious perspective and discuss how faith in a higher power helps an addict crawl out of a dark time, said Minnick, who helped bring the program to Greenfield.

Through his work with the Hancock County Probation Department, Minnick routinely met with addicts who wanted to attend recovery meetings but were uncomfortable joining those that were faith-based, he said.

He arranged for a SMART Recovery group to begin meeting in Hancock County, with Duncan as its peer-leader, so that any resident looking for help would know they had another local option.

Recovery isn’t one size fits all, said Melody Stiles, a licensed addiction therapist from Indianapolis who started the first SMART Recovery group in Central Indiana in 2003.

Some people don’t learn as well in a religious environment as others, and might be turned away from recovery because they don’t have the same beliefs as the program’s creators, Stiles said. In other cases, participants might want to use SMART recovery as a supplement to classes they’re already attending, organizers said.

Meeting with groups of people who can understand and sympathize with their struggle is an important part of recovery because it helps the addict understand there are people who wrestle with the same temptations they do, Stiles said.

“It’s just nice to feel like you’re not alone,” Duncan said.

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SMART Recovery meeting weekly from 9-10:30 a.m. Saturdays at Hancock Regional Hospital, 801 N. State St., Greenfield.

The group gathers in Classroom 1, located on the lower level of the hospital’s main building.

The meetings are free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Betsy Duncan at 317-626-7719.