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12 Step Programs

three hands clasped together

When we hear the term 12 step program, most of us think of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA was the first 12 step program created, but since then, there have been many 12 step programs created to treat other addictive and dysfunctional behaviors. Each 12 step program uses 12 steps, or principles, sequentially to help people manage addictive behaviors and achieve personal growth and freedom.

The 12 steps may vary slightly, depending on the particular addiction or disorder being treated, but in general they look like this:

  1. Admit powerlessness: This involves admitting that the addiction or behavior has become uncontrollable and that lives are unmanageable because of this.
  2. Find hope: This step involves helping people believe in a greater force than themselves to make the necessary changes.
  3. Surrender: In this step, people surrender their lives to God or the higher power they believe in.
  4. Take inventory: This step focuses on helping people grow in self-awareness.
  5. Share my inventory: Here, people share their wrongdoings with their higher power or another person.
  6. Become ready: In this step people prepare to have their higher power remove character defects.
  7. Ask God: People ask God for help to change in this step.
  8. Make list of amends: This step involves making a list of people who have been hurt and how amends can be made.
  9. Make amends: People make the amends from their list (whenever possible).
  10. Continue my inventory: This step helps people continue to be self-aware and admit when they do wrong.
  11. Pray and meditate: In this step, people continue to develop a spiritual connection with God or their higher power.
  12. Help others: This final step involves people who have completed the 12 steps sharing their spiritual awakening with other addicts who also need help.

3 Important Facts

  • AA began in the 1930s and has become the most widely used tool for treating alcoholism and other substance abuse problems.
  • Twelve step programs also incorporate 12 traditions that work in conjunction with the 12 steps. The 12 traditions are guidelines for group governance that emphasize unity, confidentiality and empathy.
  • There are more than 200 self-help organizations that employ 12 step program tactics to promote healing and change.

Signs to Look For

Those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction may find a 12 step program beneficial. In addition, 12 step programs are available to people with behavioral issues such as gambling, sex addiction, or overeating.

What Are My Next Steps?

If you’re interested in participating in a 12 step program, speak with a doctor or mental health professional who can assess your needs and make a recommendation of programs in your area based on those needs. You can also find more information on meetings by visiting http://www.12step.org/home/faqs/.