Experts by Experience

The esteemed staff at Lake Ave Recovery continually work to educate and spread knowledge about social work, substance use disorders, and the journey toward long-term recovery. Recently, Dr. James DiReda, one of Lake Ave Recovery’s founding partners, had the privilege of working with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) for a webinar series as part of the Providers Clinical Support System (PCSS) covering the topic of Peer Support and Lived Experience in Substance Use Treatment and Recovery.

About Dr. James DiReda

Dr. DiReda has longstanding experience with clinical social work and substance use disorders. In long-term recovery himself, Dr. DiReda has devoted his life to sharing his expertise through his own journey and shaping the lives of those affected by this illness. Earning a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Work from Boston University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Connecticut, he works as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with over thirty-three years of direct clinical experience and consulting in the field of wellness programs, and addictions.

Dr. DiReda is also an Associate Professor in the School of Professional Studies at Anna Maria College in Paxton. MA. and has released a number of addiction-related publications, including the popular book, The East Side of Addiction.

Peer Support and Lived Experience in Substance Use Treatment and Recovery

Dr. DiReda’s web series touched upon the importance of the giving and receiving of non-professional, non-clinical assistance from individuals who have lived-experiences with substance use disorder and who support others on their recovery journey. This type of support is crucial, from early recovery to long-term recovery.

While individuals in treatment and recovery immensely benefit from the support of clinical professionals, peer support and fellowship have proven to have a significant positive impact.


Services that are delivered by individuals who have common life experiences and a unique capacity to help each other based on a shared affiliation and deep understanding of these experiences.

Support from non-clinical individuals in recovery offers a safe, welcoming entryway into recovery and provides an opportunity to develop a sense of belonging and identification.

There is a great benefit and therapeutic value in sharing stories with like-minded individuals who have gone through similar experiences. Building trust and acceptance in a judgment and shame-free environment, centered around trust and acceptance, creates a strong foundation for one to build their recovery journey upon.

The goal of non-professional, non-clinical peer support is to motivate, encourage and celebrate individuals through empowerment and role models. A mentor, ally, or confidante provides a unique type of support.  

An Inside Perspective 2014: The Impact of Role Models on Out of Treatment African-American Addicts

Dr. DiReda published an article in 2014 depicting the influence that positive role models in recovery from drug addiction had on a sample of 20 African-American males struggling with substance use disorders. The findings are summarized below:

  • Nearly all participants described their involvement with recovering addicts as a significant factor in helping motivate them to change
  • One of the most powerful motivating factors consistently reported by respondents was the experience of being around individuals they knew from somewhere in their lives, who used to inject drugs and live a similar lifestyle, and now are living a drug-free life as a result of treatment.
  • For many respondents, seeing someone that they knew who had previously been addicted to drugs and had stopped was reported to be a great source of hope and inspiration. It was a positive influence on many respondents’ decision to enter drug treatment programs and stop using drugs.

To learn more about Dr. James DiReda’s webinar series, please visit https://pcssnow.org/event/peer-support-and-lived-experience-in-substance-use-treatment-and-recovery/.

If you’re ready to begin the journey to recovery, we’re here to stand by your side through the entire process—Call 508-794-4400 to get started.



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We have a longstanding foundation in the treatment and recovery community

Lake Avenue Recovery is a state licensed and Joint Commission accredited organization committed to promoting, maintaining, and restoring the dignity, well-being and mental health for those with substance use disorders and their families serving greater Worcester county and beyond.

  • 132 Years Clinical Excellence
  • 105 Years Recovery Experience
  • 8:1 Ratio Client to Staff
  • 12 Publications on Alcohol and Drug Use

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