The first 12-step program started with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the late 1930s. This approach has expanded to encompass a wide range of addictive and destructive behaviors. A core component is the AA Big Book, which includes the core principles and personal stories of those who found recovery in the program.
Addiction and mental illness are inherently isolating diseases, so many people deny they have a problem and/or struggle with it on their own. The basic concept behind 12-step programs is to make people feel stronger in the company of others with similar problems. The 12-step approach is just one option in the treatment continuum along with psychotherapy, medications, psychoeducation, alternative support groups, and alternative/complementary approaches.
Twelve-step study provides clients with an important social network that supports recovery. The approach emphasizes the powerful compulsive nature of addiction and the importance of harnessing personal responsibility without passing judgment. Twelve-step programs work best when the philosophy is integrated with other therapeutic modalities. Even though the core principles are the same, 12-step work can be approached in many creative ways, which can boost adherence to treatment and a client’s commitment to sobriety.
When cravings or triggers occur, the support of others who’ve been down the same road is invaluable. In this nonjudgmental, supportive setting, clients’ commitment to recovery is reinforced by the collective strength of the group. Hope and a sense of purpose begin to emerge and then flourish. Benefits include: