Self-help programs, or 12 step programs, are a fixture of the addiction recovery community. Built on a spiritual foundation of self-reflection and personal responsibility, these programs emphasize a set of 12 distinct guidelines for overcoming compulsive behaviors such as addiction.
More than 250 self-help programs around the world use the 12-step philosophy developed by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and many U.S. addiction treatment centers incorporate some form of 12-step methods into their programs. The majority of people who attend self-help meetings use them as follow-up care after receiving professional addiction treatment. For 12 step participants, the programs are a valuable tool for staying sober and managing the symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse.
How Self-Help is Similar to Professional Addiction Treatment
When someone reaches out for addiction help, she is making a powerful choice to live a better life. The first step to any form of sobriety is admitting addiction is a chronic problem and some form of help is necessary to get better. Both self-help programs and treatment facilities encourage the importance of talking to supportive, encouraging people and reaching out for help when temptations grow strong. Both options acknowledge the chronic nature of addiction and the necessity of remaining vigilant to control stress and temptation.
Full participation in the process also is essential. Change comes to people who sincerely want to overcome substance use problems.To achieve a high level of motivation, people need to understand the personal and social repercussions of heavy substance. This includes time spent reflecting on previous troubles with close relationships, conflicts with employers and encounters with the law.
Acceptance and support from friends, family, co-workers, and counselors makes it easier to live sober and allows opportunities for re-creating healthy habits and ways of interacting with society.
How Self-Help is Different
While self-help programs and treatment facilities both emphasize the need for self-awareness and motivation to change, treatment facilities offer scientifically researched therapies to change a person’s thoughts, habits and behaviors. Professional treatment offers strategies for overcoming negative addictive behaviors, while 12 step programs identify a larger, spiritual crisis as the root cause of addiction.
Traditional addiction treatment models emphasize intervention strategies that focus on an individual, whereas 12step groups operate through community efforts first, then one-on-one care through sponsorship. The evidence-based counseling protocols available at facilities require highly skilled, trained, and certified professionals to guide a patient through new life skills. Meanwhile, sponsors available through recovery groups volunteer their personal expertise and experience to foster an atmosphere of hope and encouragement among addicts in crisis.
Another important difference is the benefit of inpatient treatment, which separates patients from the temptations and stresses of daily life. By its nature inpatient care lasts a limited amount of time as patients learn as much as possible before returning to family and employment. The work of 12-step programs continues for as long as a person needs the group, even if that involves a lifetime commitment in order to remain sober.
Effectiveness of Programs
Close to 32% of AA members first learned of the 12-step philosophy during inpatient treatment. AA members who attend meetings report various years of sobriety: 22% report 20-plus years of sobriety, 14% between 11 and 20 years, 13% between 6 and 10 and 27% report one year or less.
Diversity of age, race, sex and ethnicity among self-help membership is steadily rising – confirming that 12-step concepts now reach larger numbers of people and adapt to fit the needs of different types of people. The longer a member stays involved in 12-step recovery work, the greater the chances he or she maintains abstinence, lessens anxiety and develops positive self-esteem.
Patients who begin by seeking treatment at a professional facility and then follow up by finding a supportive network of people committed to sobriety achieve the best long-term outcomes. The combination of scientifically researched counseling protocols along with ongoing support gives people the tools they need to live a sober life.
Rehab at the Canyon
The counseling therapies offered at The Canyon give patients the ability to determine why an addiction developed in the first place and then learn the best skills to fight it. Staff members at The Canyon know there is no easy path to sobriety, but with the right knowledge, understanding, commitment and support, it really is a lifestyle anyone can achieve.
Laudet, A. B. (2008). The Impact of Alcoholics Anonymous on other substance abuse related Twelve Step programs. Recent Developments in Alcoholism : An Official Publication of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism, the Research Society on Alcoholism, and the National Council on Alcoholism. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613294/#R5.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016 from http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment/substance-use-disorders
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Drug Addiction Treatment in the United States. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states
Donovan, D. M., Ingalsbe, M. H., Benbow, J., & Daley, D. C. (2013). 12-Step Interventions and Mutual Support Programs for Substance Use Disorders: An Overview. Social Work in Public Health. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753023/.
 Alcoholics Anonymous. (2014). 2014 Membership Survey. Retrieved Nov. 20, 2016 from http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/p-48_membershipsurvey.pdf.