Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Has Social Media Begun to "Sponsor" Addiction Recovery?: A Study of Face-to-face Versus Online Sobriety Support

Donald S. Grant, Fielding's School of Psychology

Millennial technology offers previously unimaginable opportunities. For those struggling with a dependence to alcohol and/or other mind-altering substances, new computer-mediated platforms provide even the most reticent, introverted, shame-based, compromised, discomfited or isolated individual the option to connect with online sobriety support communities, including, but not limited to, Alcoholics Anonymous. The extent to which these platforms are being engaged (or even potentially supplanting traditional face-to-face sobriety support), as well as any possible differential in efficacy between traditional face-to-face meetings and computer-mediated recovery platforms, are questions which currently present themselves as epochal to both 12 Step program members and healthcare professionals alike. While research on this topic remains extremely limited in terms of scope and breadth, this dissertation includes a quasi-experimental study designed to investigate any potential migration from face-to-face to online recovery, and further test possible significant differences in sobriety support experience, modality preference and efficacy outcomes between face-to-face (F2F) and online-based recovery.

Analyzing of respondent survey results from the Sobriety Support Preference Scale (SSPS) created for this study demonstrated a significant preference of respondents for the F2F (M=7.7, SD=1.54) modality over online sobriety support. Further ANOVA testing revealed that study participants self-report lying more about their sober time while participating in F2F sobriety recovery (M=2.81, SD=3.24) than they do during online engagement. They are also significantly more likely to be drunk or high while participating in F2F sobriety support (M=2.57, SD=3.05) than when doing so online. Further results revealed that participants have not significantly decreased their F2F attendance since engaging with online sobriety support. Finally, additional testing results suggested that greater participation in F2F sobriety support predicts better sobriety success, while greater participation in online sobriety support predicts less.

Keywords: Alcoholics Anonymous, face-to-face, 12 Step meetings, self-help groups, Facebook, online recovery, computer-mediated communication, social media, social networking, online communities, alcoholism, sobriety support, Media Psychology

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