Structured vs. Open Support


Once someone starts to engage in the process of change, they might want to reach out for additional resources. Some of the most appropriate agents of change can be peer support sponsors or therapists. How would you know if the therapist is a good fit for you? This question can be quite abstract and emphasizes themes of comfort versus discomfort. You can evaluate the different support styles.

Structured Advice

When selecting the right sponsor, you will find many available personalities. Some personalities are more directive and give advice. They focus on structure and a specific recovery plan. Many people focus on the specific plan at hand in determining if this approach is helpful. It can also be useful to consider the abstract themes of feeling safe amidst trusting someone else’s judgment, as compared to feeling intruded upon as if the sponsor is controlling. This experience all depends on what lies in your past.

In other words, would you benefit if the person actively gives you advice? Possibly.

Open Support

Another form of sponsor or therapist is one who is more exploratory and curious. This style of support focuses on giving you the podium to think and express how you feel. The person challenges you to work through your own problems and tries to avoid the pattern of giving advice.

It is impossible to tell from a first meeting if a sponsor or therapist is ideal for you, but you can pay attention to these basic principles. Is the person more structured or more free-form?

Consider the Opposite

In tying together this dilemma with common things we see in treatment at CeDAR, it can be helpful to review developmental patterns from your parents. Were your parents highly structured and even domineering about how you should live? Was there any abandonment in your childhood, such that you needed to learn about life for yourself?

In summary, this question is all about advice versus expression. It might be worth seeking out the opposite of what you’ve already experienced. If people in your life gave you never-ending advice, maybe its time to reflect on how you might choose on your own. If you felt often alone and abandoned by your loved ones, a structured therapist or sponsor can help you feel safe and on the right path. Try different support styles to find which one gets the best results.

Read more CeDAR Education Articles about Life in Recovery