Although most of us have heard of the term ‘sponsor’ in an addictions setting, few know what this role truly means and how important they are in the recovery process.
In general terms, a sponsor can be defined as someone who in most organizations and social groups is a person who initially introduces a new peer into the group. At Cedars, we use the term ‘treatment sponsor’ to describe these individuals. This treatment sponsor is someone who is already established as a patient at Cedars, and is able to not only introduce individuals to other peers, but also to explain the various protocols like filling out event sheets and maintaining respectful boundaries with other peers and staff, for example. A treatment sponsor usually sits with the new peer in the dining hall at meal times, explains daily routines, and introduces them again to other peers.
More importantly, a sponsor is there to answer any questions the new peer may have and may be too shy to ask. Where are the washrooms? What is this handbook I have? When is lunch? There are usually a few questions that no matter how simple or complex they may be, are important details that will help the new peer feel more comfortable with their surroundings in this difficult time.
Having support from someone who has already experienced being new to the facility is the best possible way to make the new peer feel as supported and welcomed as possible. The sponsorship process also has two-sided benefits, as it is not uncommon for the treatment sponsor to take pride in this assignment and feel a sense of accomplishment from their role.
In the recovery process, the role of sponsors is of paramount importance, creating a special bond between a sponsor and sponsee. The sponsor will not only guide the sponsee, but also act as a sounding board when times are tough.
This practice of being a sponsor extends beyond an individual’s stay at Cedars, as numerous studies stress learning the importance of working with others in the path to recovery. At Cedars, being a treatment sponsor is the beginning of this life-long practice so that individuals know that they can not only provide support but also ask for support in difficult settings, which is a key element in building a successful recovery foundation.
By: Mike Kennelly
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