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Meta-synthesis of qualitative collegiate recovery studies identifies six major themes providing support for collegiate recovery practices

Research on collegiate recovery programs (CRP) and students in recovery is growing, however, many of the qualitative studies have not been synthesized into a useful organizing mix. A new study used meta-synthesis design to explore the leading qualitative research on the experiences of students in collegiate recovery programs. After an inclusion and study comparison process, a total of 10 articles and dissertations, with a combined sample size of 650, that were published between 2008 and 2017, used qualitative methods and were focused on collegiate recovery were included in a cross-study thematic analysis conducted by the authors. The analysis resulted in a thematic analysis worksheet, which was then used to form the basis of a final constant comparative analysis, in which similar themes were grouped together, analyzed and coded. The authors then used investigator triangulation to identify major themes and form the basis for the meta-synthesis results and discussion. Results of the analysis led to finding 6 major themes or metaphors: (a) social connectivity (i.e., “the means by which social connection is experienced and facilitated by the student in recovery through the collegiate recovery program”), (b) recovery supports (i.e., “connections, programing, and services that are cognizant of recovery needs and facilitate the fulfillment of those needs within a CRP”), (c) Drop-in recovery centers (i.e., “sense of place and the provision of a connection to centralized, recovery- specific locations within the campus ecology”), (d) Internalized feelings (i.e., “the result of processes of multi-dimensional changes for students in recovery as they navigate both educational and recovery challenges such as stigma, identity, shame, and exclusion”), (e) Coping mechanisms of students in recovery (i.e. “the psychosocial and bio-ecological adjustments through developmental identity growth, emotional regulation, and cognitive behavioral changes”), and (f) Conflict of recovery status and college life (i.e., “the chief binary of socially constructed values that exist in conflict for students with a recovery identity”).

Take away: Through the meta-synthesis, authors identified six themes/metaphors that support preexisting collegiate recovery practices as well as inform future collegiate recovery programs.

Ashford, R. D., Brown, A. M., Eisenhart, E., Thompson-Heller, A., & Curtis, B. (2018). What we know about students in recovery: meta-synthesis of collegiate recovery programs, 2000-2017. Addiction Research & Theory, 1-9.

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