How the Fundamental Elements of A.A.’s 12-Step Program Aid in Substance Abuse and Treatment
There is something to be said for longevity. An ideology which, when applied to healing the disease of addiction, has endured and flourished for eight decades must be effective. The 12 step recovery model, which originated from the nascent Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) program in 1938, has not only endured but has proliferated inside the addiction and recovery field. Many who grapple with substance abuse and seek treatment will find themselves in a rehab program that is modeled after, or incorporates, A.A.’s 12-step philosophy.
At the core of the 12 step program are a couple of intrinsic assumptions. One is the importance of humbly admitting that drug or alcohol abuse has become an addiction, and another is accepting that help from a Higher Power is necessary for overcoming the addiction and reclaiming one’s life. The steps methodically take the individual through the process of making amends to oneself and others, to attain a sense of compassion for others, and ultimately to experience a spiritual awakening that carries the individual through a life of abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
How the 12 Step Program is applied in Rehabilitation
There are as many variations of the rehabs that utilize the 12 step philosophy as there are treatment services. The fundamental tenets of the 12 step program can be applied in many different ways, shaped by the rehabilitation center’s own treatment philosophy and mission. Some programs may just lightly touch on the steps where others incorporate as many aspects of the 12 step program as possible.
Generally, substance abuse and treatment to overcome it encompass a vast landscape where many different approaches might be used, however most will place an emphasis on group therapy. One of the founders of the 12 step program, Bill Wilson, when writing what was to be known as the Big Book, noted that people who struggled with addiction benefited from sharing their personal stories and experiences with others. Based on this observation, 12 step fellowship groups were formed and have since flourished globally to now number nearly 110,000 groups. The concept of sharing in a group setting is presently found in the majority of substance abuse treatment programs, with attendance at 12 step meetings usually a requirement of the rehab program.
The emphasis on group work, either with fellow recovering addicts or with family groups, allows individuals in recovery to share, gain peer support, and increase the virtues of humility and compassion. Although most, if not all treatment centers offer individual psychotherapy sessions, a heavy emphasis on group therapy is a trademark of the 12-step influence in the program.
Do 12-Step Programs Work for Substance Abuse and Treatment?
Researchers have found it difficult to quantify the effectiveness of A.A.’s 12 step program as it relates to long-term sobriety because most studies to date have been unable to prove a causal relationship due to flawed study criteria or biased samples. However, there are many accounts of the positive effects of the 12 step program. Some articles note the improved overall mental health and wellness of those who participate in a 12 step program, and others mention the positive effects due to added support with the social model of fellowship in recovery found in 12 step groups. Peer support and sponsorship add an extra level of accountability to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
An article by Scott Lilienfield and Hal Arkowitz, published in the Scientific American, described one well-designed study called Project Match that shows how participation in AA’s 12 step program can facilitate a new, sober lifestyle. The study compares the results of participants in a 12 step program with those in a cognitive-based therapy program and a motivational enhancement therapy-based program. The A.A. participants compare favorably with the other two groups. In addition, the authors note:
“In 2006 psychologist Rudolf H. Moos of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford University and Bernice S. Moos published results from a 16-year study of problem drinkers who had tried to quit on their own or who had sought help from AA, professional therapists or, in some cases, both. Of those who attended at least 27 weeks of AA meetings during the first year, 67 percent were abstinent at the 16-year follow-up, compared with 34 percent of those who did not participate in AA.
Phoenix Rising Behavioral Health Care Services Provides 12 Step Rehabilitation
For individuals battling substance abuse and seeking treatment, Phoenix Rising, located in Orange County, California, offers an effective 12 step based substance abuse and treatment. Phoenix Rising incorporates 12 step programming and support into various aspects of treatment, providing the many benefits associated with the 12 step recovery program. For more information about our services, please contact us today at (877) 298-6378.