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Understanding Sponsorship, Fellowship, Feedback Groups and Recovery Partners

photo for recovery partnerAs a recovering sex addict you will probably become involved with an “anonymous” program such as Sex Addicts Anonymous.  These programs are modeled after AA in which the original emphasis was on the informal support of the “fellowship” and a sponsor who guided you through the 12-steps.

In Sex Addicts Anonymous and some of the hundred plus other 12-step programs that have sprung up, members have formed “feedback groups” and “recovery partnerships” as additional kinds of relationships to support recovery.

What is a Sponsor?

A sponsor is a trusted guide, someone who has been in the program longer than you have and who can advise you and support you as you go along.  A sponsor is someone you trust who will be on your side and help you through the twelve steps.

A sponsor can be particularly important in the beginning of recovery when the addict may have doubts about the whole process.  The addict makes a decision to trust the sponsor and to follow their advice.  The addict at that point feels there is nothing to lose in putting their faith in the sponsor, someone who seems to be living proof that the program works.

Key Things to Remember

  • A sponsor is a mentor, not an equal.
  • There needs to be a feeling of basic trust in order to relate well to a sponsor
  • Your sponsor doesn’t have to be perfect, just able to be supportive and helpful to you
  • You are expected to take direction from a sponsor but there is room for some flexibility and discussion
  • It is up to you to maintain regular contact with your sponsor
  • It is always OK for either person to end a sponsorship relationship if it is not working and this happens often

What is Fellowship?

Fellowship is social interaction with people in your 12-step program.  Relationships formed with fellow recovering addicts outside of meetings are generally considered to be an important piece of the program.

Research has generally supported the idea that social relationships with other recovering people help support abstinence.  However, a recent study suggests that in early recovery a relationship to a sponsor rather than other social relationships is key in maintaining abstinence from alcohol.

Key things to remember

  • Fellowship can be anything from having coffee with another group member or members, to any other kind of social contact or interaction
  • Fellowship is leaderless, it is a relationship of equals
  • Fellowship is for human connection rather than for doing program related work
  • Fellowship has the power to combat the feeling of isolation

What is a Feedback Group?

A feedback group is a small group of program members who get together periodically to discuss their recovery and give each other “feedback” about what members share.  In a feedback group members take turns talking about themselves and invite one or more members to give them feedback.

Members of a feedback group can become close friends.  These groups require some initial motivation and commitment to one another.

Key things to remember

  • Feedback groups are also leaderless
  • Feedback groups are not intended to be therapy, just an exchange of ideas and opinions
  • Feedback groups need to be composed of “safe” people.  Therefore they may work better when composed of people who choose each other rather than being open to anyone who shows up.
  • The procedural format of the meetings is decided by the members.  It can be more or less structured.
  • Feedback groups have the potential to provide a great deal of support for continued growth in the later phases of recovery.

What is a recovery partner?

A recovery partnership combines some aspects of all of the above.  It is a relationship of two equals and so could be seen as “co-sponsorship.”  Often recovery partners work the 12-steps together even when they have a sponsor as well.

Recovery partners can also be “accountability partners” and can report in to one another as a way to help stay away from their acting out behavior.  In fact a recovery partner relationship can be used in any way you decide so long as you remain committed to supporting each other in recovery.

Key things to remember

  • Recovery partnerships help keep up motivation and momentum in recovery work
  • Recovery partners are often easier for people to find than sponsor relationships
  • A recovery partnership can provide a chance to be open and vulnerable with another person and is thus a way to get better at intimate relating
  • Recovery partners can meet often either in person or by phone, and can provide a lot of extra support to one another especially in early recovery

All of these recovery tools are of value and can be used in any combination.   And all of these relationships will evolve in unpredictable ways.  The important point: everyone does recovery in their own way.  Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling and on Twitter @SAResource. 

Understanding Sponsorship, Fellowship, Feedback Groups and Recovery Partners

Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at

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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2019). Understanding Sponsorship, Fellowship, Feedback Groups and Recovery Partners. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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