An evaluation of the mutual aid facilitation sessions pilot programme, ‘You do the MAFS’
Aim and design
Whilst recovery has gained considerable momentum in recent years, pathways into recovery programmes are less understood. One increasingly popular pathway to recovery that is thought to increase aspects of recovery capital, mainly social and cultural capital, is mutual aid. ‘You do the MAFS’ is a six session, peer led group that educates service users about abstinence based recovery and provides a gateway into mutual aid. Two ‘You do the MAFS’ programmes were piloted and an evaluation over a 6 month period was conducted by the Phoenix Futures research department.
Intervention and setting
‘You do the MAFS’ was designed by Dear Albert, a social enterprise funded, in part, by the Leicester Recovery Partnership (LRP) innovation fund. LRP is a partnership made up of Leicester Partnership Trust, Reaching People and Phoenix Futures. ‘You do the MAFS’ was set up at the Phoenix Futures Widening Horizons, community day service in Leicester city centre. The course consists of informal group sessions that run for 2.5 hours a week, covering fundamental recovery topics and detailed discussion on the types of mutual aid available. The vibe of each session is similar to that of a 12-step or SMART meeting therefore providing participants with a taste of mutual aid. ‘You do the MAFS’ provides a choice of abstinence-based solutions and aims to encourage service users to make their own decisions about which will contribute to their recovery.
Participants were recruited through referral from their Phoenix Futures’, Widening Horizons’, recovery navigators/keyworkers, through referral from local detox units or through word of mouth. From these two courses, 36 participants started the programme, with 19 consenting to the study (6 female). Participant age ranged from 25 to 60 years and all had some form of substance misuse problem.
Measurements, findings and conclusions
Through a mixed methodological approach, this study found that attendance at ‘You do the MAFS’ improved participant health and social functioning, increased mutual aid attendance and reduced substance use. The findings from this study not only provide some evidence towards the social and psychological benefits of mutual aid but also highlight the benefits of developing a more structured and intensive pathway into mutual aid. Bridging this gap through more formal mechanisms such as ‘You do the MAFS’ suggests that more service users might attend mutual aid and may consequently continue to increase aspects of their recovery capital.