Pros and Cons For 12 Step Programs Should be Considered

For millions of people, the traditional 12 Step program has been an effective solution to alcohol or drug addiction, or for coping with a family member’s addiction. The programs are typically confidential and place the addict in a supportive environment, as well as connect the family to a broader network of resources. The support groups are offered in thousands of locations across the country and the globe, with new groups added often.

However, some people suffering from alcohol or drug addiction may find 12 Step programs are not able to guide them to successful recovery. The pros and cons of 12 Step programs should be considered by anyone considering joining.

The list of benefits and challenges associated with 12 Step programs can vary according to an individual’s needs, but many people appreciate the programs’ free cost, immediate entry, and nonjudgmental atmosphere. Many recovering addicts can learn as they listen to the experiences of others, and benefit from the guided discussions and structured approach.

For people with social problems, depression, or trouble responding to groups, 12 Step programs may heighten anxiety. Because the information provided is generally unmonitored by a professional, people may receive misinformation. Medications to help with recovery may be seen as intolerable by some group participants. Furthermore, some people disagree at a foundational level with the 12 Step approach and its emphasis on a Higher Power to help with recovery.

Over-dependence on the group is another potential drawback of a 12 Step program, especially for people who are emotionally unstable or do not have adequate outside support to draw upon. Some have relapsed once they stopped attending meetings, and group participants are asked to not consider the 12 Step meetings as their sole resource on the journey to recovery.

The Twelve Step program has its roots in Alcoholics Anonymous and emerged in the 1930s. Typically, the group sessions are run by group members who are recovering addicts themselves. Recovery is essentially self-guided, but the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions provide the foundation. A core principal is that the person admits they have lost control over their addiction, and that a power “higher than themselves” can bring the needed change.

It is suggested that a person seeking addiction recovery try different groups before making a final decision. Recovery from drugs or alcohol generally requires an emotional, social and physical approach, and finding the right 12 Step group can be an asset as these avenues are pursued.

Statistically, expert opinions vary toward the success rates of 12 Step programs. Most therapists and counselors, however, have heard many success stories related to 12 Step recovery. Even so, 12 Step programs should not be considered as true group therapy; rather they are systems of support in a group setting. For some addicts, 12 Step programs are most effective in conjunction with other professional treatment options.

Many experts agree that the success of a 12 Step program, or any recovery strategy, lies in the person’s desire to end the destructive behaviors. If their desire to quit is genuine, a 12 Step program can be a compliment to medication, inpatient or outpatient therapies. While not the “magic bullet,” 12 Step recovery programs have helped millions of people on their journey to freedom from addictions.

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