Twelve Step Programs Explained

twelve step programs

Twelve Step programs have been foundational in the addiction recovery industry since they originated in the 1930s. At first, the programs were used to help people overcome alcohol addiction. But, since their inception, Twelve-step philosophies have evolved and expanded to address other types of addiction and mental health disorders as well.

The Original Twelve Steps From Alcoholics Anonymous 

  1. Admit you have a substance abuse problem.
  2. Believe in a power greater than oneself to help restore you.
  3. Decide to submit oneself to this power and work toward sobriety.
  4. Take a moral inventory of oneself.
  5. Admit to and own the wrongs you have done to yourself and others.
  6. Be ready to remove your defects of character.
  7. Ask a higher power to help correct these defects.
  8. Take an inventory of the people you have wronged and be willing to make amends.
  9. Make direct amends wherever possible.
  10. Take another personal inventory and admit to your faults.
  11. Seek spiritual enlightenment to stay the course toward total sobriety.
  12. Embrace sobriety and help others achieve the same.

Are Twelve-Step Programs Sufficient Treatment for Addiction?

Over the years, many people have followed Twelve-step programs and most with success. In 2017, 92% of survey respondents in Canada reported they’d used Twelve-step program to achieve and sustain their long-term recovery.

Still, however, there are skeptics who question the effectiveness of the 12-step process. So, is 12-step truly the best method for a recovering addict?

It is important to understand that addiction recovery is unique for each person. Every individual has their own difficulties that they work to overcome, which is why 12-step philosophies are most effective when combined with other treatments and therapies.

Two-Fold Approach: Treating Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

A 12-Step program addresses addiction, but it is common for individuals to require mental health support at the same time. A simultaneous treatment approach offers an effective way for people to achieve sobriety and rebuild the relationships that are needed for a healthy lifestyle.

Mental health often plays a significant role in addiction recovery. Many recovery industry professionals get caught in a “the chicken or the egg” scenario when it comes to addiction and mental health. Did a mental health disorder lead to the progression of the addiction? Or, did the addictive behaviour lead to the development of mental health challenges?

Regardless of the cause and effect relationship, the truth lies in the fact that addiction recovery and mental health go hand-in-hand. So, it is essential that both conditions are treated simultaneously to boost the chances for success in life-long recovery.

Evidence Supporting Twelve-Step Programs

12-Step programs are an integral part of achieving long-term recovery. Their biggest benefit: Helping individuals identify and remove the intrinsic and extrinsic barriers to their personal recovery.

Last year, Canadian survey respondents cited the largest barriers to addictions treatment as being:

  • The belief that they weren’t ready or their problem wasn’t serious (55%)
  • The concern for what people would think of them (50%)
  • Not knowing where to turn for help (36%)
  • A lack of supportive networks (30%)
  • Long delays for treatment (25%)

By providing immediate access to an open and supportive group environment, 12-step programs aid in removing the stigma that surrounds addictions and mental illness and make recovery more accessible for those who seek it.

Both anecdotal and scientific evidence demonstrate that the 12 steps are, in fact, effective; there’s a reason why they’ve been around so long! When combined with individual counselling, the 12 steps are a dynamic and effective solution for most people working through addiction recovery.