“Statistics show that only 75% of participants stay abstinent. That means 25% are still struggling with the relapse,” says Couple and Family Therapy M.S. candidate Lili Equihua.
Equihua’s research, which she’ll present at the fourth annual Graduate Showcase on Oct. 21, focuses on incorporating resilience thinking into the 12-step recovery program used by Alcoholics Anonymous to help treat individuals struggling with substance dependency. While researching, Equihua learned that the 75% success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous may have remained stagnant due to the lack of development in the 12-step recovery program since it was originally developed 85 years ago.
“75% is a large group, but you have 25% that are not recovering," she said. "According to what is available as of now, AA is our go-to treatment; and, unfortunately, with the rest [of the 25%], they are not successful and find staying sober difficult to accomplish. We can’t continue without adequate and additional treatment,” Equihua said.
Equihua believes the 12-step substance abuse program can be updated and improved by incorporating resilience thinking, which would address some of the core issues of individuals seeking help.
“Many individuals suffer from addiction due to their inability to cope and face adversity in their life. They go to substance abuse to forget trauma and adversity. Resilience is about finding good coping skills to overcome adversity,” she says. “Resiliency is a workshop that needs to be incorporated into the 12-step program to teach them self-awareness, regulation, optimistic life perception, making meaningful connections, decision-making ... all of these things that people think are just common sense. Many of these people have these addictions because they didn’t have these things taught to them in school and at home.”
Equihua runs the Rebel Recovery Community on campus and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at UNLV.
“The ‘a-ha moment’ came when I researched resilience. Resilience isn’t common sense and common sense isn’t common. If you weren’t exposed to it, then you would not know,” she says.
“I want to show that resilience is something that needs to be taught and it does not come naturally.”