Abstract: Reconciling the Competing Needs and Identities for Parents Experiencing Recovery within 12-Step Programs (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

446P Reconciling the Competing Needs and Identities for Parents Experiencing Recovery within 12-Step Programs

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Nancy Jo Kepple, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Briana McGeough, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Background and Purpose: Mutual aid groups, particularly 12-step programs, are an affordable and common referral source for clients requiring recovery services. Recent literature has demonstrated significant benefits of mutual aid participation, such as increased recovery-oriented social support, reduction in health care costs, and continued abstinence and remission (for alcohol use disorder). Emerging literature suggests that subpopulations, such as sexual and gender minority individuals or young adults, may experience unique benefits and challenges when engaging with mutual help groups. This study addresses a gap in the literature by exploring how mothers describe navigating mutual aid groups while simultaneously holding both identities as parents and individuals in recovery.

Methods: Fifteen in-depth, two-hour interviews were conducted with mothers in early to on-going stages of recovery from a substance use disorder. Time in recovery ranged from 3 months to 15 years in sustained recovery. The study purposively recruited a diverse sample of mothers who had and had not actively engaged treatment services. Interviews elicited parents’ experiences of recovery while parenting children and were transcribed verbatim. This presentation arises from a secondary analysis of these interviews, using thematic analysis of narratives related to mutual aid experiences.

Findings: All mothers mentioned experiences with mutual aid groups; however, there was a high variability in how these spaces facilitated or hindered individuals’ recovery process through meeting their intersecting needs of being a parent in recovery. Spaces facilitated on-going engagement when the group was shaped around multiple shared identities, such as being a mother of young or school-age children and who identified as in recovery from alcohol use disorder. These spaces, when available, created a substitute support network that replaced a “mommy culture” outside of recovery spaces that frequently incorporated alcohol use and did not provide safe spaces to discuss how to navigate stressors of parenting while managing one’s own recovery needs. That being said, the benefits of these spaces were offset for some participants by experiences of guilt or shame from not aligning with groups norms, particularly when framing around recovery as “abstinence only” felt too rigid for some. In addition, many mothers described disengaging from mutual aid spaces due to the inability to find meetings that were accessible—meetings were often scheduled during dinner and bedtime routine hours and/or not allowing children to attend meetings.

Conclusion and Implications: When working with clients to identify mutual aid groups, it is critical to help clients navigate the frustrations of identifying spaces that best align with core identities that they identify as critical for their on-going recovery process or supplemental resources that address unmet needs. In addition, this work speaks to the needs to identify affordable, parent-centric spaces that allow mothers to find accepting and safe spaces to integrate multiple facets of their identity, helping them to address recovery needs while also building a fuller life critical to maintaining on-going recovery.