What questions will this study answer and why is the study important?

Researchers have studied Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step groups for many years, and much is known about the role these groups play in addressing alcohol and drug problems. However, very little is known about the many alternatives to 12-step groups that are available for addressing alcohol and drug problems. Some of the largest mutual-help alternatives include Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery), LifeRing Secular Recovery (LifeRing), and Women for Sobriety. There is very little research on these peer support alternatives.

The PAL study aims to provide much-needed information on the nature and effectiveness of SMART Recovery, LifeRing, and Women for Sobriety, along with new information on traditional 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Our overarching goal is to shed light on effective, accessible resources for recovery support. Results will inform the public on the range of effective peer support options for addressing alcohol and drug problems.

Our team already completed one phase of data collection for the PAL Study in 2015 (PAL1). We are now launching PAL2, which will involve a second phase of data collection. PAL1 and PAL2 data will be combined to produce the largest and most comprehensive data source available on mutual-help groups for addiction. These data will allow the researchers to answer new and important questions about mutual-help group participation.

Data from this project will enhance our understanding of when, for whom, and why mutual-help group participation is helpful, answering questions such as whether certain people benefit more than others from a given group and what forms of participation are most effective. Answering these questions will help both providers and those experiencing substance use problems to make the best choices possible for immediate and long-term recovery support.


All survey data have been collected.

PAL2 is no longer recruiting new participants. 

If you would like to be informed about the study results, please contact the study Principal Investigator, Dr. Sarah Zemore, at