Founded in 1937 by Dr. Abraham Low, Recovery International(RI) is a peer led self help group for those with mental health issues. Its organizational structure is similar to AA's except permanent meeting leaders are trained in RI methods but don't necessarily have any medical qualifications. RI describes its approach as cognitive behavioral and at first glance it appears benign but I see some disturbing characteristics and methods very similar to those used in AA...
Meetings are rigidly structured and entail the following:
1. A reading from one of Abraham Low's/RI books - no other material is allowed.
2. An "Example" is presented to the group. An "Example" is a highly structured and pre-prepared share where the member reframes their daily experiences to agree with RI concepts. It consists of the following: Description of an everyday problem and associated feelings. Report of how RI tools were used to solve the problem. Ends with a statement such as "Before I had my Recovery International training I would have done X and now, thanks to RI, I did Y and dealt with the issue successfully."
3. "Spotting" - The group comments on aspects of the "Example" and how RI tools were used/not used or could have been used to better effect.
4. Informal part of the meeting which consists of more "spotting" - general discussion of RI techniques and application of those techniques. Discussion must be kept within the bounds of Recovery International concepts.
5. $$ in the basket (optional but encouraged). RI website suggests $4 per meeting.
To me this reads just like an AA meeting. Starting with the reading ONLY from Dr. Abraham Low's books = Big Book/12&12. Indeed Dr. Low has achieved almost the same demi-god status as Bill Wilson. The "Example" is exactly like an AA "share" and MUST follow the same AA "What we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now" format - it's the same old "I used to be a sinner, I had a conversion, Now I'm saved!" theme.
"Spotting" is just the same as AA member comments on a share where the message that "any problem can be solved by proper application of OUR PROGRAM!" is strongly reinforced. Criticizing or questioning the RI method is not allowed. To me the "spotting" technique is very much like the AA 4/5/6/7/10th step - constantly look for flaws/faults in yourself and and how to use the RI program to remove those flaws/faults. Group "spotting" allows other members to "relate" to the negative self image just as in AA. RI meetings strictly forbid use of non RI literature or discussion of any competing approaches very much like AA's "Conference Approved only" approach. All comments (spotting) must be positive and reinforce the effectiveness of the RI technique - again, much like AA's "The Program is perfect - the Program never fails people, people fail the Program" approach.
RI believes that perfection is an unrealistic goal that is detrimental to recovery. The RI program cannot be practiced perfectly and thus the RI member is set up for the "No graduation - No exit" strategy as with the AA "progress not perfection" mantra. RI also uses program specific jargon and slogans just like AA. A brief read of their member forum would lead anyone to believe that every life problem can be solved by throwing enough mindless jargon/slogans at it.
In RI "temper", either "fearful temper" or "angry temper", is the all powerful bogeyman that wants to keep every member from complete recovery. "Sabotage" – is when an RI member ignores or chooses not to practice what they have learned in Recovery International much like "Not working a strong program" in AA.
I think it would be naive of us to believe that just because a self help group is not AA then it must be benign. Every self help group deserves the same scrutiny that AA does. Anywhere there are weak and vulnerable people who are marginalized in society some entity is going to try to take of advantage of them. To me the similarities between Recovery International and AA are too many and too obvious to ignore.
It may be different shit but it has the same stink.