Peer Power!

RC: What other demographics does the rogram serve?

AR: This program is also a good fit for students who are looking to step down from a treatment program and are ready for the next step of being more independent but still want continued accountability. We have been reaching out to treatment centers near the schools we serve to identify people who are planning on returning to college.

RC: What is the program’s structure?

AR: The program has five key aspects: peer mentoring; drug testing; group support; individual counseling by addiction counselors; and family communications.

The peer mentoring aspect is about relationship building and helping students understand what it means to be in recovery. The peer mentors meet with students informally once a week for an hour at a place where the student feels comfortable, like at a library during a study break or at a cafe for coffee. We encourage students to join their mentors at regularly scheduled social events, like BBQs and holiday dinners, at the Haven. The peer mentors are also available whenever the student needs to talk.

Students in the program are also drug tested randomly once or twice per week to monitor how often someone is drinking or using a specific substance. So, if a student’s goal is to reduce his or her drinking to only moderate amounts a week, we can check his or her progress through drug testing. This helps us make sure they are following through with their goals and being healthy. It’s also a way to see if someone needs to be escalated to a higher level of care.

Students also can attend a community meeting held once a week at the Haven with their mentors. This allows them to see what 12-step recovery looks like in an approachable way. We’re trying to break down any barriers that would keep them from exploring meetings. It also gives them an opportunity to come together and talk about how things are going and makes them feel more connected to the other members of the community.

During the individual counseling sessions, the counselors assist students with issues surrounding their substance use as well as lend support with the stress of college life and social pressures that can arise from living a life of abstinence.

RC: Creating a new social circle seems to be key.

AR: Yes! The peer mentor introduces students to a new social group that does not drink. If students want to continue socializing with current friends at times during the week, this new circle gives them an alternative on other nights.

RC: You mention families are an integral component. How does this program serve them?

AR: We realize that parents are our greatest partners and we want to make sure we are all sending the same message. Peer mentors and counselors contact parents once a month to keep them in the loop on their child’s progress and answer questions. We also educate parents on substance use and what recovery looks like. Like students, parents have a very specific idea of what it means to have a problem and that might not fit the image they have of their child who is young, successful and in school. In addition, peer mentors share their stories with the parents, which is often eye-opening and breaks down the stigma. If need be, we also can support the parents if they need assistance with managing their child at home.

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