, Gloucester, MA


September 6, 2013

Power and success of 12-step programs

What are 12-step programs? Who participates in them? Why do they work? And what exactly are the “12 steps”?

Twelve-step programs are self-help groups that provide practical and spiritual guides to living with an addicted person or dealing with a personal addiction. The guaranteed anonymity of those who participate is a vital part of their underlying philosophy.

The most widely known and recognized 12-step program is probably Alcoholics Anonymous. However, many other organizations use the 12-step approach to deal with addictive behaviors and their impact on others. These include Overeaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon (for those living with an addicted person), and Sex and Love Anonymous, among others.

Because they operate as fellowships of addicted individuals, or of relatives and friends of addicted individuals, 12-step programs offer participants the chance to share experiences, cultivate hope and positive attitudes, and stimulate emotional strength. Through this group interaction — and through the guidance provided by the 12 Steps themselves — participants seek to solve common problems and obstacles to moving through recovery.

Through my counseling practice I have found 12-step programs to be excellent adjuncts, for some people, to individual therapy. I have, for example, suggested Overeaters Anonymous to those with eating issues when it was clear they needed more than a simple weight loss program. In fact, individual psychotherapy alone often does not provide enough emotional support for people dealing with addiction issues especially in the early stages of their recovery efforts.

The most productive strategy for an addicted person is to gain knowledge about addiction and emotional support from both individual counseling and a 12-step program (or other appropriate group support as determined by a professional.) Individual counseling is a particularly important component because, in my experience, addiction to a substance or activity, including foods or over-working for example, is often generated by the need to self-medicate for underlying brain chemistry problems and emotional trauma or both.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Your news, your way
Pictures of the Week
Comments Tracker
AP Entertainment Videos
Adam Levine Launches Clothing Line for Women Paul Wesley Sinks His Teeth Into Directing Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Josh Thompson Streams Album to Hook New Fans Franco Leads Star-studded Broadway Cast ShowBiz Minute: Singer, Young, Poehler Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Nas Movie Opens Tribeca Film Festival Zooey Deschanel Adds Designing to Her Repertoire Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show 'Half of a Yellow Sun' Hits the Big Screen Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Swift's Bus Drives Into Country Hall of Fame ShowBiz Minute: Cyrus, Walker, Combs Pedro Pascal Plays 'Game of Thrones'' Red Viper Deeley Shows Acting Chops in Hulu's 'Deadbeat' Ora Strips Efron at MTV Awards ShowBiz Minute: MTV Awards, Lopez, Royals Stars Hit Red Carpet for MTV Movie Awards Conan Backs Colbert, Hosts MTV Movie Awards