How to host an effective porn addiction recovery support group.

Since the beginning of our website, users have been setting up small peer-organized accountability partnerships to help recover from porn addiction, porn overuse, and compulsive sexual behavior. These generally take place online through live chatting apps. While many of these groups are successful in helping their participants reach their sexual health goals, many fall flat and end up dissolving after just a couple of interactions. Wrong information pushed by inexperienced group leaders can even be harmful to group members’ recovery.

We’ve been hosting peer support groups since 2013. They first started as Tinychat web conferences for our subreddit subscribers. Over the years of hosting our support meetings, we have learned what works – and what doesn’t work. Furthermore, we have witnessed hundreds of our users’ accountability relationships flourish or fail on the forum – and it is quite easy to spot characteristics that commonly lead to the rise or demise of these accountability partnerships.

Be open and honest. Your accountability partners can only hold you accountable if you’re truthful and transparent about your successes and slip-ups. If you’re open, that will lead to others to be open too – making for a much stronger and productive accountability group.

Set ground rules and expectations early. Are you going to connect on-demand or connect regularly? If you are meeting regularly, when and how often will you meet? How long will you meet? Which method will you use to communicate (phone, email, live chat app)? What topics should be off-the-table (some partners like to avoid talking about religion or politics)? Many accountability relationships fall apart before even getting started because these basic and necessary things aren’t clearly communicated.

Stay consistent. If you don’t have a set meeting time, try to stay in regular communication just to check-in, even if things are going well for you. If you have a recurring meeting time, actually show up. If you aren’t going to make it one week, try to let your accountability partner(s) know instead of just “vanishing.” Ghosting on meetings often leads to the accountability partnership soon disbanding. If you unexpectedly miss a meeting, let your group members know why.

Take out what you put in. If your accountability partners are always there for you, day or night, try to be there for them too. If they’re always available to talk whenever you need support – but then you ghost them when they need support, that will often lead to them not wanting to stick around.

Learn the basics of porn addiction. Make sure that everyone in the group is knowledgeable about porn addiction and the best practices for recovery. It might be time to read up, otherwise, you might have a problem of “the blind leading the blind.” Nobody should pretend to know more than they do. If you don’t know the answer to something, instead of relaying your best guess to your fellow group members, say “I don’t know” and look it up! We aren’t saying that you need to know everything, but it’s a great idea for people to understand the very basics of recovery and best practices. NoFap’s free Getting Started guide is an excellent beginner resource.

Don’t set your expectations too high. Accountability group members are generally not mental healthcare professionals – so don’t try to act like they are and know everything, or have the correct advice for your particular situation. Accountability relationships are about accountability. Also, your accountability partners can’t force you to stop using porn. Nobody can hold your hand through the entire recovery process, you have to be the one to show up to meetings to get support.

Keep it small. If there are 300 people in your group chat, you no longer have an accountability group. You’ll lose sight of each other and no longer feel as accountable since you can just “blend into the crowd.” While you might be able to get away with more members for professionally-run and organized groups, we recommend that most groups keep it to under 10 people maximum. The smaller the better.

Encourage an atmosphere of staying anonymous. If everyone is anonymous, you can have an atmosphere where people don’t feel like they have to hold back. With an issue as sensitive as porn addiction, it’s always best to err towards anonymity. Furthermore, we regularly hear from people who regret revealing too much personal information about themselves when their accountability partnerships went south.

Try to have a mix of people in the group, including those who are experienced and new to recovery. Experienced people are often role models and mentors for group members, while new people add new energy to the group.

Connect with people like (and not like) you. You want to be able to connect with people who you can easily relate to. For example, many religious people might prefer to meet with other religious people. Or parents might want to meet with other parents. But at the same time, this website focuses on a uniquely unifying issue where many different people from many backgrounds are coming together to overcome porn addiction. So this might be a good time to consider connecting with somebody different from yourself, which can add another dynamic of support. For example, many older people might feel a positive sense of responsibility and accountability to be a role model for younger group members, while younger group members benefit from their life experience and advice.

Be wary of giving too much “tough love.” Try to promote a shame-free environment. Sexual shame would probably only exasperate problems. You might be surprised about how emotional recovery meetings can get. Many people are used to bottling up their struggles with porn addiction, keeping it a secret for years, leading to a cathartic flood of emotions when they finally talk about it openly for the first time. Try to be understanding to people’s emotions and slip-ups. Find the line between acceptance – and actually holding somebody accountable to the goals that they set out for themselves. If in doubt, ask them how you can be the most helpful to them, rather than just assuming that they want to be berated for not reaching their goals. Perhaps in the first session, ask everybody in the group how they would like to be held accountable.

Encourage everybody to participate. Some people are more outgoing than others and are more likely to share, while other people might need space to be created for them. Some people are new to the idea of being transparent about such sensitive issues. Maybe it’s a good idea to ask every member to share one-at-a-time, or otherwise ask quiet group members how they’re doing.

Don’t only stay accountable for sexual health goals, but other goals as well. One of the best ways to recover from porn addiction is to stop thinking about porn all of the time! Work together to fill your days with pursuing goals and beneficial activities.

It can be a lot of work to be a member of a successful accountability group! But if you’re able to implement these practices, chances are that you can have a successful peer-organized group. Go to our forums to get started.

We actually host our own weekly groups and drop-in support calls. They’re online and completely anonymous. If you’re sick of unorganized chaos, unknowledgeable group leaders, or unreliable accountability groups – or are otherwise ready to take your recovery to the next level – check them out.

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