30 September 2021
SURE Recovery App – two years on after its launch
To mark International Recovery Day 2021 on 30th September, we are taking a retrospective look at the creation of the App and how it has evolved over the last two years.
In 2019, NIHR Maudsley BRC and the charity Action on Addiction launched the SURE Recovery App, designed to help people recovering from alcohol and other drug problems. To mark International Recovery Day 2021 on 30th September, we are taking a retrospective look at the creation of the App and how it has evolved over the last two years.
The App is for people using substances to track their journey to recovery and offers a range of features to monitor how they are working towards their goals. It has been downloaded over 1,000 times from Google Play and the Apple App store since October 2019, with positive reviews.
“The feedback that we’ve had is that people do like it, that it’s very user friendly and the content is good.” says Professor Jo Neale, who is based in the National Addiction Centre, King’s College London and leads on the development of the App.
Co-development with people with lived experience
The SURE recovery app originates from two assessment tools - the Substance Use Recovery Evaluator and the Substance Use Sleep Scale. They are very different from other approaches to measuring recovery in the addictions field as they were developed in collaboration with community members. The idea was that they would be tools developed not by clinicians or researchers, but by people with lived experience.
Professor Neale has led this work which started in 2013/14 and co-development with service users has been fundamental throughout. The team worked closely with digital designers, Mindwave Ventures, who employed a user-centred approach throughout the process of building, testing and launching the App.
The App has been developed with input at every stage from people with lived experience, to ensure it is relevant, respectful and useful - two of those people are Paul Lennon and Mel Getty.
Talking about the importance of insight from people with lived experience in developing the App, Mel said: “Having lived experience can often make you an expert in that subject, it can be a skill in itself and can be used in a number of positive ways – knowledge is power.”
Paul said: “I think people with lived experience need and deserve to be asked their personal opinions on questions or projects that relate to us. When asked the question ‘what does recovery mean to you?’ it’s important to understand what you are asking. There is no simple answer to this question, because it varies over time and will depend on the individual being asked. That’s why asking people for their views is so important.”
Network and champions
The SURE Recovery team, including Paul and Mel, are now building a national network to spread awareness and get more people using the App. People recruited to the network as App Champions promote it amongst their peers and demonstrate how it works, as people with lived experience are often the most effective advocates.
Covid-19 and digital therapies
For some people, one of the impacts of COVID-19 has been an increase in substance use or increased likelihood of relapse. Alongside this, more mental health services have turned to digital and online tools. Jo said: “We know that services are recommending their clients to download and use the app.” The team also received support from Public Health England and NHS England around the development of a COVID-19 feature which offered information and resources such as where to find help and useful websites.
The SURE Recovery App is not designed to replace therapy but is a powerful tool for someone to have at their fingertips to complement other forms of support. It can be used in a self-guided way, or with the support of a friend or family member, or in a more formal way with a therapist or healthcare professional.
The App continues to be developed, with a recent key update being a new feature that allows App users to put forward their views and give feedback on a ‘hot topic’ of the month. Recent topics have included ‘the value of online support’, ‘peer support’, ‘mindfulness’, ‘stigma’, and ‘diet and eating’. At the end of each month, App users’ comments are anonymised and shared within the App along with new resources, such as reading materials, useful links, tips and more.
To find out more about the App, how it was developed, and getting involved as a champion, visit the SURE Recovery App YouTube Channel here.