Traditional treatments can be highly beneficial for a person living with an addiction, but it is difficult to maintain long-term sobriety without the help of ongoing support. This is where 12-step programs come in. The step-by-step approach, the camaraderie of the community involved, and the fact that these programs boast a medication-free solution to addiction speaks to their popularity and effectiveness.

What is a 12-Step Program?

Even those who have no history of addiction are likely familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous. This well-known group was founded in the 1920s by Bill Wilson, and members of the group still follow his teachings today.

Wilson was inspired by a friend who used Christian principles to rapidly recover from alcoholism. He began the group to help others utilize the 12 steps and regain control over their lives. These steps are used in many treatment and recovery programs today, including Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and more.

What Are the 12 Steps?

  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Anyone with a belief in a higher power can benefit from the 12-step approach. As you read through the steps, consider how they may be useful for most people. They contain instructions to take a “personal inventory,” ask for forgiveness, and above all, maintain a high level of self-awareness and responsibility for your actions.

A group of people sit in a row and applaud an individual who has shared their sobriety challenges at a 12 step program meeting

12-Step Facilitation Therapy

Although we typically associate 12-step programs with self-help, these steps are often a component of formal treatment programs. 12-step facilitation therapy is a specific treatment approach that encourages clients to get involved with 12-step groups in their community and then discuss insights from the group meetings with their therapist.

Some treatment centers even utilize the 12 steps within their own programs. The steps may be discussed in group therapy or used to facilitate interactions between patients and clinicians.

How 12-Step Facilitation Therapy Works

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides an instruction manual (PDF) for the facilitation of 12-step programs. Because of the clarity and universal appeal of the 12 steps for addictions of any kind, they can be used in almost any treatment program.

Clinicians, therapists, and counselors are able to break down the 12 steps into modules around which their treatment program can revolve. Patients can investigate the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social ways that alcoholism or drug addiction has affected their lives. Additionally, within this framework, clinicians are able to communicate in a common language with their patients as well as other clinicians.

The 12 Steps’ Core Concepts

Clinicians are able to use the core concepts (PDF) of the 12-step methodology to create a program for their patients. They may use a treatment plan that follows the following four steps:

  • Program introduction
  • Encouraging their patients’ acceptance of their addiction
  • Helping patients surrender to the reality of their situation
  • Becoming a member of their addiction recovery community (which is crucial for maintaining sobriety)

Could a 12-Step Approach Help You?

Incorporating the 12-step approach into treatment can be beneficial for many people. If you’ve tried other recovery programs but haven’t been able to maintain sobriety, consider getting involved with a local recovery group. You may also benefit from a treatment program that incorporates the 12 steps.

High Focus Centers offers substance abuse treatment that uses proven methods, including 12-step facilitation. Contact our admissions specialists for more information on our treatment programs in your state.