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Recovery apps go to the next level
Breaking Free offers online recovery resource free to all drug & alcohol users (& treatment agencies) affected by COVID-19.

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Coronavirus update - use Breaking Free for free

In response to the social distancing measures necessitated by COVID-19, Breaking Free Group has amde Breaking Free Online available free of charge to all UK services working with service users who experience substance misuse difficulties. Any individual who creates a Breaking Free Online account before midnight on April 30th will be able to access the programme for up to a year after that. We are intending to extend this initiative every month until service users can access interventions, support groups etc. via services in the normal way.

The video below shows you how Breaking Free Online now looks:

Creating a service user account

Breaking Fee are pleased to let you know that the access code HMPPS2020 is now live.

For service users to create an account, all they need to do is:

  1. Visit
  2. Click SIGN UP
  3. Use the access code: HMPPS2020 to complete the required fields.

Once a service user has an account they may wish to also download the Companion app (the links to download these can be found at the bottom of the home page).

Service users can also add supporters email addresses to their accounts via the ‘my settings’, should they wish to share their work and progress reports at distance. I have also attached ‘Supporters Guidance’ for staff.

Breaking Free would encourage all service users to create an account, as they will be able to continue benefiting from the interventions hopefully for a lot longer after the current situation has returned to normality.

The original blog post below describes the original resource when reviewed three years ago.

Breaking free online

Apps designed to help people recover from dependency on drugs and alcohol have been around for some years now. However, one of the newest, the Breaking Free Companion app which I was given the chance to review over the Christmas holiday is by far the most sophisticated — and useful — that I have seen. The app has been designed specifically to tie in with the Breaking Free Online ( treatment and recovery programme. Its main focus is on strengthening peoples recovery and resilience from drug and alcohol difficulties by using mobile technology to bring psychological techniques into real world settings. Because most people have their smartphones with them at all times, the app helps bring the learning from the programme into everyday life and focuses on a range of tools and techniques which will be familiar to those in recovery (and professionals working in the sector):
  • Access to a mindfulness video created specifically to instantly help manage cravings and urges when they hit.
  • Access to a mindfulness video developed specifically by psychologists to help manage difficult emotions such as stress and anxiety during times of crisis.
  • Notifications of high risk places and the essential coping strategies that are personally selected to help overcome potential triggers to relapse. (The accompanying literature notes that this is to help bring the technique of overcoming Seemingly Irrelevant Decisions into the 21st century.)
  • Notifications to ‘nudge’ or prompt action planning steps that can often slip or be forgotten.
  • Notifications of positive activities to help with planning your time positively. These alerts are great for helping to get active again, attending appointments and starting to build structure and routine throughout every stage of the recovery journey.

The app

The welcome screen (above) links with the work an individual has done on the online programme. The “set my alerts” section enables you to identify risky places (such as a pub, using friend’s house, ex-partner’s home — or anywhere at all that might undermine an individual’s recovery). If you approach that place, your phone will alert you and remind you of the coping method you have selected to cope to avoid lapsing. You can also use the app to remind you of the positive activities that you have resolved to undertake to make you feel positive about yourself and any positive steps for change you have also set up. The other two buttons – “Shift my focus” and “Surf my cravings” take the user to mindfulness videos designed to help cope with cravings and avoid lapses. The former takes you for a walk through a forest and the latter takes you through a number of key steps including focusing on your breathing, then on concentrating where your feeling of craving is located in your body and on “surfing over the waves of craving” until they have receded and you are in a calm and relaxed place again.


It’s difficult to assess the effectiveness of the app fully without testing it in a real world situation. However, my overall impression is of a thoughtfully constructed app which is clearly evidence-based and utilises the power of modern technology not only to personalise recovery strategies (an essential for success) but to port these strategies into every day life. I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has used the app — or any similar ones — for real, either as a person in recovery, treatment worker or peer mentor. Please use the comments section below.   To download the android version of the app click here or visit the Google Play Store and search for “Breaking Free Companion” app.   To download the iOS version of the app click here or visit the Apple Store and search for “Breaking Free Companion” app.

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