Part of my job is teaching medical students about addiction and recovery, something I enjoy. Like others, I encourage future doctors to attend mutual aid meetings as part of their education. A couple of studies with this theme recently caught my eye.
In the first, 138 medical students attended an AA meeting and then wrote reflectively about the experience. The researchers found evidence that going to a meeting challenged students’ stigmatising attitudes and increased ‘flexibility of thinking’. They found younger students seemed to have fewer solidified biases.
In the second, medical students on a Family Medicine attachment attended a single AA meeting and again reflected on the experience. The researchers found that after being at a meeting, students were more likely to find AA a useful resource, were more likely to refer and felt more confident about explaining AA.
The researchers from both these studies state the value of the practice. In my experience, students rarely find mutual aid meetings dull. The power of the personal narrative can be compelling and evidence of altruism and mutual care is inspiring.
I suspect that such practices across the caring, support and therapeutic disciplines will have similar beneficial results and we should encourage all teaching settings in addiction treatment to embed this as part of their core delivery.