Testing a Self-Determination Theory Model of Recovery from Problematic Alcohol Use Through Peer-Support Attendance




Carey, Tyler M.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Over the last century, peer-support programs have emerged as viable treatment options for individuals in recovery from problematic alcohol use (White, 2009). During this time, researchers have generated a considerable amount of evidence suggesting that peer-support programs promote widespread benefits among group members (e.g., White, 2009). Despite a growing body of research in this area, little is currently known about the processes explaining how peer-support groups help people achieve positive recovery outcomes. The current study adopts a self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) framework to explore the means by which peer-support programs promote well-being, group satisfaction, and sustainable behaviour regulation for limiting alcohol use. Eighty-one peer-support attendees responded to a brief web-survey about self-regulation, well-being, and peer-support group experiences. These participants were recruited as part of a larger longitudinal project (entitled “Sober Together”) on peer-support for problematic alcohol use. Preliminary findings indicated that peer-support attendees who perceived group environments as need supportive were more likely to experience psychological need fulfillment, and in turn, greater well-being, group satisfaction, and autonomous regulation for limiting alcohol use. Notably, participants who perceived a congruent “spiritual-fit” with secular or spiritually-based peer-support programs also appeared more likely to experience their group as need supportive, which in turn, bolstered perceptions of psychological need fulfillment. Findings highlight the importance of structuring peer-support environments in a manner that supports psychological needs.



Self-Determination Theory, Alcohol Use, Recovery, Peer-Support, Motivation, Self-Regulation