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12 Step Programs: Are They Right For You?

12 Step Programs: Are They Right For You?

For those who are living in recovery, sustaining long-term sobriety can be a daunting task. While the initial phases of achieving this (such as detoxification services and in-patient treatment) can generally be supported with the help of insurance, longer-term services such as face-to-face counseling may be harder to receive reimbursement for. One option for those who are serious about their recovery is to participate in a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These are free, group-based social programs based on the idea of social support and “working the steps” to maintain sobriety. But are they right for you? In this article, we’ll share some things to know before seeking out this resource.

The social model of recovery: 12-step programs are based on the idea that one of the biggest hurdles to maintaining sobriety is the lack of sober peers who can hold you accountable to your goals. As such, 12-step programs are a social program – by attending, you’ll hear the successes and setbacks of other group members and be encouraged to share your own. You’ll also be encouraged to partner with a sponsor, an individual with more time in recovery who can be your “go-to” when you need support outside of meetings.

The 12-step model: The program is also based on the 12-steps, a proscribed approach to recovery that includes steps such as admitting powerlessness over addiction and making a fearless moral inventory. The steps aren’t easy and require a willingness to look honestly at oneself while completing the activities needed for each. While the 12-step group will provide support through this, ultimately this is an individual journey and requires dedication to getting it done.

Types of meetings: One of the benefits of 12-step groups are that they are typically available in every community, no matter how isolated, with some online communities as well. However, not every 12-step group is the same. Some are intended solely for men and some only for women; others are limited to those who’ve maintained sobriety for an extended period of time. Read the group description carefully before attending to ensure it is the right type, and don’t feel restricted to settling for the first one you link with – if it doesn’t seem like a good fit, try another.

A final note – 12-step programs, while extremely helpful and effective for some people, may not be enough support for others because they are not formal mental health treatment. If you are working through other mental health challenges, consider these services as a potential supplement to your other counseling and not a replacement; otherwise, your needs may not be fully addressed.

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Jennifer Novack
Posted on 08/27/2017 by Jennifer Novack

Jennifer is a writer for OpenCounseling. She has worked at a number of state and non-profit organizations, providing counseling, training, and policy development