Dynamics of the Social-Experiential Recovery Paradigm: New vision of social model programs
Session Type
Single-Speaker Presentation

Social model recovery principles importantly undergird NARR’s standards for recovery residences and are central to NARR’s concept of recovery residences. Social model recovery in its most complex and thorough form developed in California especially during the 1970s through the 1990s after which it essentially died except among recovery residences which did not require third party funding to survive (see Borkman, Kaskustas and Owen, 2007). A few pioneers of California’s well developed social model recovery programs are left such as the social model sisters, NARR’s Executive Director, and others. However, younger generations and those newer to the field have had little opportunity to learn much in depth about the social model recovery model and maybe many of us can benefit from a new look at an old subject. Although we have some important definitions (Polcin et al., 2014; Wright, 1990), scales of social model recovery programs (Kaskustas et al., 1998), and a small body of research (e.g., JSAT, 1998; CDP, 1998; Shaw & Borkman, 1990) that are vital and useful, Thomasina felt that shining a new lens on what these distinctive programs are that differ so much from medically and clinically-based professional treatment programs would be timely and useful to the field. The new lens is different in four key ways: 1. Conceptualize social-experiential recovery programs (SERPs) as a paradigm shift that is significantly different from medical and clinical model programs 2. Emphasize and explain the foundation of the paradigm as the peer role and its experiential knowledge (or lived experience) of recovery. The knowledge and practice of recovery derives from the collectivized experiential knowledge and wisdom (or lived experience) of the recovering community, not from one or several experts (Borkman, 1976). 3. Capture the dynamism of the social processes of “learning” from one’s peers in a recovering community of practice of voluntarily sharing recovery rather than being “treated” by professionals. 4. Emphasize the necessity of a substantial and vital recovery community as the source of experiential knowledge of substance use recovery and of the dynamism of voluntary sharing of recovery. Kaskutas, L.A.,et al. (1998). Measuring treatment philosophy: a scale for substance abuse recovery programs. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 15(1), 27-36. Polcin, D.L.,et el. (2014). Maximizing social model principles in residential recovery settings. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(5), 436-443. Wright, A. (1990). What is a social model? In S. Shaw & T. Borkman (Eds.), Social Model Alcohol Recovery (pp. 7-10).

A. Participants will be able to describe the paradigm shift and differences from a clinical/medical approach to a social-experiential recovery program (SERP) and its applications in a recovery residence.
B. Participants will articulate the importance of residential peer relationships for creating community and connection in a SERP.
C. Participants will understand and be able to explain why recovering people need a recovery community, not one or two mentors or coaches.
D. Participants will identify 3 key elements of experiential sharing and learning and its application in a recovery environment.
Date & Time
Wednesday, October 11, 2023, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
Location Name
The Presidential Ballroom (Salon IV-VII)
Intended Audience
Everybody related to NARR
Level of Experience
Introductory -- No prior experience with topic needed.
Counselor Skill Group
Legal, Ethical and Professional Development