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An exploration of the psycho-social benefits of providing sponsorship and supporting others in traditional 12 step, self-help groups

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ruth McGovernORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Sponsorship is a key feature of traditional drug and alcohol self-help groups. It is a source of interpersonal support provided by an individual who is in a more advanced stage of recovery to an individual at an earlier stage of recovery. Whilst it is widely recognised that sponsorship is beneficial to the person receiving it, little is known about the psychological and social benefits that sponsors derive from providing sponsorship to others. We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 36 long-term self-help users (6 months−10 years) with experience of sponsoring the recovery of others, recruited from three traditional types of self-help groups in the North of England. Interviews examined sponsors’ experiences of providing sponsorship within their own recovery process. Sponsors reported that providing sponsorship to others increased their own self-awareness, social skills, and social competence when it came to engaging with others. In addition, sponsors derived an increased sense of psychological wellbeing and positive social approval from helping others. Over the longer term, sponsorship becomes a meaningful and purposeful activity as it allows those providing it to be productive, make meaning and maintain a non-addicted identity. Additionally, sponsorship is a process which is beneficial for those who have little access to wider social networks.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McGovern W, Addison M, McGovern R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Year: 2021

Volume: 18

Issue: 5

Online publication date: 24/02/2021

Acceptance date: 21/02/2021

Date deposited: 19/07/2022

ISSN (print): 1661-7827

ISSN (electronic): 1660-4601

Publisher: MDPI AG


DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18052208


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