An exploration of validation as a form of social support in maintaining sobriety

Gary Westwell, Viv Burr, Serena Bartys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents selected findings from a larger qualitative study in which 18 people recovering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) were interviewed about maintaining long-term sobriety. The research adopted Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) as its theoretical framework. PCP focuses on personal meanings, particularly within role relationships with significant others. The findings extend our understanding of ‘social support’ from significant others in recovery from AUDs, and may be applicable to other Substance Use Disorders. In line with previous research, participants reported valuing practical support and general encouragement from family, friends and work colleagues. However, participants also reported changes in their sense of self, and especially valued instances where their significant others accepted and endorsed their new ‘sober selves’. Participants reported that their recovery was made more difficult when significant others failed to validate their new selves, or continued to endorse their old drinking identities, and the findings are discussed in terms of the PCP concept of‘ validation’. It is recommended that self-help groups provide opportunities for those recovering from AUDs to ‘practise’ and gain validation for their new, sober selves, and that they provide information and advice to significant others about the potential importance of validation in recovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


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