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Understanding the Benefits of 12-Step Recovery

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Understanding the Benefits of 12-Step Recovery

There are a variety of recovery approaches out there, but the most trusted, widely-used approach with more than 74% of treatment centers taking part, is the 12-Step Recovery Model.

Many mental health and substance use disorder facilities, including Signature Health, use 12-step programs because they are evidence-based. Over the years, research has shown that the 12-step approach to recovery has helped patients abstain from drug and alcohol use.

Before diving into why the 12-step recovery approach works so well, let’s take a look at how it started and what it actually is.

History of the 12-Step Recovery Model

The 12-Step Recovery Program originated in 1938 as part of Alcoholics Anonymous, thanks to a man named Bill Wilson. Wilson had been struggling with alcoholism when he developed the idea that those dealing with addiction could be positively affected by sharing their stories with one another.

The steps were further developed through concepts/teachings he came across, including a six-step program that came from a Christian organization known as the Oxford Group. The Christian influence formed the overarching idea that seeking help from a greater power (any greater power), as well as leaning on peers suffering from similar addictions, could ultimately lead to addiction maintenance/recovery. Wilson wrote his ideas down in the Big Book, which would later become the model for the entire program.

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What are the 12 Steps of Recovery?

The 12 steps of the program as outlined in the original Big Book used by Alcoholics Anonymous are:

  1. Admitting powerlessness over the addiction
  2. Believing that a higher power (in whatever form) can help
  3. Deciding to turn control over to the higher power
  4. Taking a personal inventory
  5. Admitting to the higher power, oneself, and another person the wrongs done
  6. Being ready to have the higher power correct any shortcomings in one’s character
  7. Asking the higher power to remove those shortcomings
  8. Making a list of wrongs done to others and being willing to make amends for those wrongs
  9. Contacting those who have been hurt, unless doing so would harm the person
  10. Continuing to take personal inventory and admitting when one is wrong
  11. Seeking enlightenment and connection with the higher power via prayer and meditation
  12. Carrying the message of the 12 Steps to others in need

Though originally founded from a Christian standpoint, there are other variations of the 12-step recovery program available for those uncomfortable with specific, religious beliefs or affiliations.

Why is the 12-Step Recovery Model Successful?

Research has shown that patients who take part in 12-step programs decrease their drug and/or alcohol intake compared to those who don’t attend self-help groups. According to a recent report by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, treating patients with similar problems in a group setting is the most effective form of treatment.

Additionally, a recent article from the Addiction Research and Theory journal, stated that those who abstain completely from substances (as advised in 12-step programs) have better, longer-term mental health outcomes than those who continue to use.

“The 12-step approach works because it gives those struggling with addiction an opportunity to surrender the addiction, fully process every step of the recovery journey, and continue moving into the future with new, healthier habits,” noted Dr. William Fikter, Associate Medical Director at Signature Health.

12-Step Recovery Resources

The most popular 12-step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), host meetings across the United States every day. Signature Health also uses a 12-step approach to recovery for alcohol and substance use disorders.

Additional 12-step resources include (but are not limited to):

To review the Big Book through PDF or by listening to it, check out this free online version.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, call Signature Health at 440-578-8200 to make an appointment, or stop by during our walk-in hours  if you need help now. We’re here for you.





Signature Health presents the information in this blog as a resource for our community. It is not intended to replace professional medical advice, to establish a physician-patient relationship, or to endorse any particular entity or service.