Twelve Step Programs

What is a 12 Step program?

A 12 Step program is both a recovery plan and support network. Group members use the 12 steps to support each other as they recover from addictions and compulsions, which are ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that cause problems in your life. The 12 Steps include:

  • Admit there is a problem.
  • Find a higher power, group, or program that can help you.
  • Accept the care provided by that higher power, group, or program.
  • Take an honest look at the way you think, feel and act.
  • Admit to your higher power, yourself and others what you have done wrong.
  • Be willing to change the things you are doing wrong.
  • Ask for help in making changes.
  • Make a list of the people you have harmed and be willing to make amends to them.
  • Reach out to the people on your list that you have hurt and make an effort to make up for harm that you have done.
  • Continue to take an honest look at the way you think, feel and act and admit when you are wrong.
  • Continue to study and meditate on the things that affect your life and make the right choices.
  • Live these steps every day and help other addicts who want to recover.

Examples of 12 Step programs include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Debtors Anonymous
  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Overeaters Anonymous
  • Sexaholics Anonymous

When is it used?

The goal of a 12 Step program is to support, teach, and encourage you as you work to stop your addiction. Going to meetings regularly and putting into practice what you learn helps you overcome your addiction.

Twelve Step programs are not the same as group therapy. Twelve Step programs do not use professional counselors or therapists. They are not a substitute for professional help, but can provide the support you need to recover.

How does it work?

Meetings are led by group members who have been addicted and can help other who are currently addicted. The meetings usually last from 60 to 90 minutes. Meetings are available almost everywhere in the world. Group members share their stories, experiences, strengths, and hopes with each other.

Anyone who wants to do something about his or her addiction problem can join a group. You do not have to tell anything about yourself, except to admit that you have a problem. For example, “Hi, I’m David, and I’m an alcoholic.”

You may need to attend at least 5 meetings a week for the first year. When you are under a lot of stress, you are at high risk of going back to your addiction. It helps to go to extra meetings and get extra help at those times. It may be helpful to get there early or stay late and talk with people who share your addiction.

How do I find a program?

Ask questions and get referrals from people you know and trust. You could check with:

  • Your healthcare provider or therapist
  • Friends or family members
  • Your employee assistance program (EAP) at work
  • Local mental health or human service agencies
  • Local phone listings
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-29
Last reviewed: 2014-03-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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