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Using "Sober Support" Groups in Your Juvenile Court

NCJ Number
Margaret L. Borg; Susan James-Andrews; Jacqueline van Wormer, M.A.; Guy A. Wheeler; Susan A. Yeres, Ed.D.
Date Published
March 2010
16 pages
This technical assistance bulletin provides guidance on how to best use "sober support" for substance-abusing juveniles in the juvenile justice system.
Treatment case planning by the courts often involves referral to outpatient or inpatient treatment, drug testing, and the additional requirement that youth participated in a "sober support" group. This most often takes the form of participation in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and/or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), as well as other program models. To date, there has been little research on the effectiveness of "sober support" specifically for adolescents; however, the current report draws on what is currently known about "sober support" groups in providing guidance on how to best use such programs for court-involved youth. The bulletin notes that youth with a longer history of substance use and greater addiction severity are more likely than short-term substance users to attend and benefit from AA/NA. Also, "sober support" is most effective when it focuses on juveniles and offers opportunities to interact with peers. In addition, current information suggests that two to three sessions of "sober support" per week may be optimal for adolescents. This guide also advises that courts can legally mandate attendance at "sober support" meetings, but all youth must have the choice between AA/NA and secular programs. Major sections of this guide also outline issues to consider before requiring youth to attend "sober support" groups; actions to take when "sober support" alternatives are not available in the community; descriptions of various existing "sober support" options; and case law on requiring the use of "sober support" groups. 18 notes and 19 suggestions for additional readings