Does the 12 Step Program Really Work?

Does the 12 Step Program Really Work?

Woman Having Counselling Session

There are some who doubt the 12 Step methods. In fact, many who try and fail may never be converted, and sadly, may die addicted or alcoholic. Others will wonder, did they try hard enough? Or, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, ‘he or she failed because they were incapable of being honest with themselves and others?’

Because of the anonymous aspects of the group, these doubts lingered far longer in outsider’s minds than in those alcoholics and other “addicted” people for whom their 12 Step programs had saved their lives, and the lives of their friends within the network.

Today, the efficacy of 12 Step programs is well-documented. There are a host of powerful reasons that we at have come to believe a power greater than one’s self is a valuable perspective for anyone attempting to overcome substance abuse – or any number of abuses. (This is a lot different than things were a few years ago. Read about the controversy between AA and medicine here.)

In this article we will cover some of the scientific conclusions, and present the evidence we’ve seen, along with covering some of the basic tenants and philosophy designed some 65 years ago by two guys who wanted a cure for the alcoholic.

Project MATCH

One of the widest-quoted studies, published in 1998, Project MATCH studied three kinds of treatment, Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Motivational Enhancement Therapy.

The first, Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy, involves convincing the adherent that alcoholism (or addiction) is a disease of the mind, body and spirit, an “infection” of insanity, wherein the power to stop drinking once started does not exist. The only sane response to such an affliction, naturally, is life-long abstinence. Further, this treatment worked each patient through the first five steps of AA. In addition, patients were encouraged to attend AA meetings, journal about their experiences at meetings and within the scope of their experiences in working the first five steps. Reading of AA literature was encouraged, along with socialization among members of AA and “practicing AA principals in all their affairs.”

An interesting article about AA and medicine can be found here.

It’s worth noting here that within 12 Step groups, there is a culture of reaching out to fellow members, expressing their intention to have “conscious contact” with other members, especially new members and to spread the word among people who are interested. One of their philosophies is “you can only keep what you have by giving it away.”

In sharper contrast, is the Motivational Enhancement Therapy. Counselors make no attempt to guide patients through any sort of step-based recovery or actions. Instead, clients are given non-judgmental feedback on their behavior with a focus on personal responsibility to change, along with a menu of other options for designing new behaviors. Occasionally the Motivational Enhancement Therapists offer outright advice.

In the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy model, patients are simply given techniques for helping them change their thinking (congition) and action (behavior).

For project MATCH, 806 clients were randomly selected to receive one of these three therapies. The researchers also interviewed the clients and ranked them on various attributes.

Overall results came back in 1998: Nearly 30 percent of those clients were abstinent after three years of treatment. Even among the ones who drank during that period, on average, two-thirds of the time, they abstained from drinking.

Of the various attributes, the two most powerful predictors of success: Readiness-to-change along with self-efficacy (patient’s confidence in their own abilities to abstain).

The main conclusion of note was, for Project MATCH, that those in the 12 Step Facilitation offered a clear statistical advantage when total abstinence was the desired outcome.

In another study, by Richard Longabaugh, a director at the Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University in Rhode Island, it was conclusively found that Twelve Step Facilitation gives patients an advantage on one particularly important element: social support for drinking.

Longabaugh found that when alcoholics had a network of people who drink, finding a new network of people who did not drink, nor encouraged drinking resulted in longer periods of abstinence. He stated, “may be the treatment of choice” for alcoholics.

There are many more studies than time here. Briefly, a third study found that for patients who entered inpatient treatment:
Two-thirds were attending a Twelve Step group when they entered treatment.

Most clients entering treatment supported a “global lifestyle change” not simply to satisfy a court-order.

Patients attending a weekly (or more) meeting stayed in treatment longer – an average of four weeks more, and were much more likely to complete the required time for full treatment.

Additionally, the longer patients stayed in treatment, the more likely they were to contact their sponsor.

Finally, patients who stayed in treatment longer, completed their treatments and weekly attended some form of a Twelve Step meeting had significantly higher rates of abstinence than those who did not meet such criteria.

Fiorentine’s conclusion was clear: people chose to use Twelve Step groups and treatment as “integrated recovery activities,” as opposed to mutually exclusive options.

When patients combine treatment with the powerful Twelve Step groups they experience a multiplying effect – a unique advantage over using treatment or groups alone.

In conclusion, chances for success in recovery from any addiction is improved when the patient adds to their treatment with a program based on the Twelve Step philosophies.

Due to the somewhat secretive nature of the anonymous element of 12 Step groups, conclusive research took longer than it might have otherwise. These days, however, few doubts remain about the strong benefits of adding a 12 Step program to your plan for planting yourself firmly in recovery.

Based on countless observations has made – of people just like you, who struggled with addiction or alcohol, the resolve of our entire staff has been to support addicts and alcoholics by referring exclusively to treatment facilities which promote a framework which includes 12 Step training and preparation, for continuing beyond the prescribed time away.

Would you like to end your substance abuse problem? No one will argue with the fact that the challenges surrounding drug or alcohol abuse are mountainous. They are.

However, if you would like to give yourself the best possible chance to recover and live a full, vivacious life, a storied life bound by no bottle or pill, free from living away from your family, behind a locked door, or stumbling through the doors of yet another bar…

Then you owe it to yourself to contact us today. It’s simply too important to put this off another day. You owe it to your family, your friends, your career, your kids, actually you really owe it to yourself.

To you.

Whatever fears you have, share them. Our staff is comprised of dedicated health care professionals, many of whom have actually been through the very travails you are enduring today.

We understand.

There’s really no reason to keep up the high cost of low living, not for another minute.

We get it.

It’s not easy. You’re scared. But we will guide you through the process that, once started will soon put you in a place where you can look back and say,

I made it!

Let’s go.
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