How Effective Is 12 Step Addiction Rehabilitation?

12 Step recovery programs are possibly the best-known approach, although they are by no means the only path to sobriety. The basic concept of 12 step drug rehab is bringing together a group of peers all dealing with the same issues to provide mutual support in achieving common recovery goals.

In more specific terms, there are 12 steps members have to follow in order to achieve full recovery from addiction. However, people increasingly question whether 12 step recovery programs are effective in a modern context. Here we take a closer look at how the traditional rehab approach is used as an effective treatment option in a modern rehab setting.

What Are 12-Step Programs?

The 12 steps involved in the traditional rehab approach involve elements that are designed to help people overcome their substance abuse issues. Groups including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) form a worldwide network of fellowships providing mutual support both during and after rehab. The system was founded in the late 1930s and membership has grown significantly in the following decades, which is probably why it is familiar to so many people around the world.

The theory behind 12 step recovery programs is that people with drug and/or alcohol addiction can support each other, helping members to remain sober by encouraging healthier behaviors in a group setting. Not only are 12 step drug rehab members bonded by their common issues with substance abuse, but they also share the same belief system. There is no requirement to join a 12 step group beyond the desire to quit drugs or alcohol and make certain behavioral changes to maintain sobriety.

12 Step offers the Benefits of Group Support

Group therapy is an important component of most rehab programs and generally continues in aftercare as an outpatient service. A supportive community has been shown to be essential for people to achieve long-term recovery and 12 step drug rehab specifically resonates with those who have strong religious or spiritual beliefs.

The other benefits of 12 step programs include:

  • Support among peers in a non-judgmental environment
  • 12 step programs are completely free although donations are always welcome
  • Members gain access to a sponsor, a very powerful tool in rehab and recovery
  • The sheer number of 12 step rehab centers makes them accessible to many

Some of the reasons why a person may not feel that 12 step rehab centers are for them include:

  • 12 step has a spiritual foundation although it is not a dogmatic approach
  • Only the member’s name and contact details are given to 12 step group organizers, which means there can be a lack of accountability
  • 12 step rehab centers do not offer psychiatric or psychological therapy or counseling

Are 12-Step Programs Effective?

Many people with substance abuse issues consider the effectiveness of 12 step programs, particularly when faced with alternative choices. Much depends on the individual themselves and whether they feel the 12 step route to recovery complements their attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. 12 step requires a considerable commitment to making behavioral changes that should come naturally to the individual.

12 step rehab programs have been around for many decades and so there is much evidence to show that it is a successful approach. This is certainly evidenced by the sheer scale of the organization, which has groups in some of the world’s most remote locations. 12 step rehab programs also offer considerable support to people who live with addicts and can be particularly effective for families with shared spiritual convictions.

Recovering from substance abuse is a long journey and there is always a possibility of relapse, even years after rehab. This is the main reason it is important to have a strong support system in place that will continue to encourage and motivate sobriety for the long-haul. Ultimately, much can be gained from a sense of belonging to a group with commonly-held beliefs and this is really the secret of 12 step’s success.

There is no one-size fits all approach to addiction recovery and much depends on the needs of the individual in rehab. It is vital to get a good “fit” with a treatment program which is why individuals undergo significant evaluation and assessment when they enter rehab. For many people, 12 step is an approach that works well within their lifestyles but for those who have different needs, there are several quite different alternatives to traditional rehab.

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