What is 12-Step Therapy?
12-step programs are a popular type of recovery resource designed to help people who are struggling with substance abuse. Alcoholics Anonymous may be the most well-known of these programs, but other 12-step groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, exist to help people with various forms of addiction.1
Participants in 12-step therapy follow a structured series of steps to break free of their addiction and maintain their sobriety. Group members are encouraged to connect with a sponsor to help them navigate the process of working through the 12 steps. There is a spiritual element to the 12-step approach that centers on a belief in a higher power, although participants are welcome to define this higher power in their own way.
Understanding the Benefits
There are many ways that 12-step therapy can help participants on their path to recovery. Some of the key benefits include:
12-step programs are affordable: Joining a 12-step group is typically free—the only thing you need is the desire to break free of your addiction
12-step programs are widely available: You don’t need to live in a major city to find a 12-step group near you. Most people have no trouble finding a program that’s conveniently located.
12-step programs provide a sense of belonging: Addiction is an isolating disease, but recovery wasn’t meant to be a solo journey. In a 12-step group, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who are dealing with the same challenges as you. You’ll be able to develop a strong support network to help you get through the tougher moments of recovery.
12-step programs offer a safe haven: If you’ve had a bad day and worry that you might be headed toward a lapse in your sobriety, you can always go to a meeting. At the very least, you’ll be in a place where you can’t drink or use for an hour or two, which may be long enough to allow a craving to pass. By the end of the meeting, you’ll probably feel stronger and more likely to stick to your recovery efforts.
Unique Benefits for Men and Women
Everyone in recovery can reap the benefits of 12-step therapy, but research shows that men and women appear to get slightly different benefits. A study surveyed about 2,000 Alcoholics Anonymous members, asking them to name the most important benefit of the program. For men, learning how to handle potentially risky social situations and building a positive social network were the key benefits; women most valued the ability to abstain from drinking when they were depressed or sad.2
It’s not easy to overcome an addiction, but having the right recovery resources can increase your odds of success. 12-step programs offer a clearly defined set of steps, valuable social support and a spiritual approach to recovery. If you or someone you love is ready to begin a new, sober life, a 12-step program may play an important role in your recovery journey.