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12-Step Addiction Recovery Programs: What They Are & How to Find One Near You

Many addiction treatment programs incorporate 12-Step programs or 12-Step facilitation therapy into their services. While many people are familiar with the 12-Step approach used in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, they may not know why it can be helpful or what the 12 Steps are.

In this article, you’ll learn about what 12-Step programs and 12-Step facilitation is, what to expect and how they may help a person continue a life of recovery.

What Are 12-Step Programs?

Twelve-Step programs are free, readily available support groups that are open to anyone who has a desire to stop their substance misuse. Some 12-Step groups cater to specific populations like women, men, LGBTQ+ and family members. Each group is specific to the substance or behavior a person wants to change (e.g., alcohol, gambling, overeating).

The 12-Step approach to addiction recovery was first developed as part of Alcoholics Anonymous to help people overcome their compulsive misuse of alcohol. The 12 Steps have since been adopted by numerous mutual support groups as a foundation for helping people recover from various substance addictions and harmful behavior patterns.3

The goal of 12-Step programs is to:3, 4

  • Provide a safe, supportive environment for people to share about their struggles with addiction.
  • Connect with others who understand their perspective.
  • Encourage long-term abstinence from substance misuse.
  • Help establish positive behavior changes.

12-Step groups can be used in formal treatment settings, like inpatient centers or outpatient facilities, or as a method of continuing care to help promote abstinence.4

Research on the effectiveness of 12-Step programs isn’t conclusive, but many people claim to have long-term positive outcomes when they are involved in 12-Step programs.4, 5

What Are the 12 Steps of Addiction Recovery?

The 12 Steps are a set of guidelines that began with Alcoholics Anonymous. The Steps are considered spiritual principles designed to help a person throughout their recovery journey and are outlined in the Big Book of AA. Other groups have adapted the 12 Steps with language unique to their substance or behavior pattern. The following are the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:6

  • Step 1 of AA: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Step 2 of AA: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Step 3 of AA: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our higher power as we understood that higher power.
  • Step 4 of AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Step 5 of AA: Admitted to our higher power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Step 6 of AA: Were entirely ready to have our higher power remove all these defects of character.
  • Step 7 of AA: Humbly asked our higher power to remove our shortcomings.
  • Step 8 of AA: Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9 of AA: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Step 10 of AA: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Step 11 of AA: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our higher power as we understood it, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Step 12 of AA: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

What Is 12-Step Facilitation Therapy?

Twelve-Step facilitation therapy is a form of therapy to help encourage a person struggling with substance misuse to engage in 12-Step mutual support groups to support their abstinence.2,5

Instead of a person working on the 12 Steps in a group setting, 12-Step facilitation allows a person to establish a safe environment in which they get familiar with the 12-Step process. The objectives of 12-Step facilitation are:2,5

  • Cognitive: Gain a better understanding of how a person’s thoughts relate to their substance misuse and the consequences of their misuse.
  • Emotional: Learn how a person’s emotions relate to their substance misuse and learn how to manage emotions to prevent relapse.
  • Behavioral: Gain more understanding about unhealthy behavior patterns and how they may have supported their substance misuse.
  • Social: Actively participate in mutual support groups to help when feeling tempted to use substances.
  • Spiritual: Develop trust in a higher power to find hope for a life without misusing substances.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

How Are the 12 Steps of Recovery Used in Rehab?

Twelve-Step programs are often incorporated into rehab treatment settings. In fact, 65% of facilities use 12-Step facilitation as one of their therapy offerings.1 Some facilities may also offer 12-Step mutual support groups.

Facility-organized programs may follow an individual approach, a group-centric approach, or a combination of both. Your facility’s therapist will discuss the program with you in-depth before you begin.

How to Choose a 12-Step Program for You

If you are considering a 12-Step approach to your recovery, there are several factors to consider. If you are stepping down from formal treatment, it may be helpful to speak with your treatment team (doctors, therapists, etc.) about what types of mutual support groups may be most useful. The following sections discuss factors to consider when choosing a 12-Step program.

1. Find a 12-Step Program that Specializes in Your Specific Addiction

There are several types of 12-Step programs to address different types of substance use and behavior patterns. There are also 12-Step groups to help support family and loved ones who are supporting a person struggling with addiction. Some people participate in one group, while others may choose to participate in multiple 12-Step programs to address other addictions or behaviors.

Some of the most common 12-Step programs include:

2. Where is the 12-Step Program Located?

If you are looking for local 12-Step programs that aren’t a part of formal treatment, then you can easily search for 12-Step meetings near you. Each program has a website with a search tool to help you find in-person and online meetings, if available. Use the following links to search for common 12-Step meetings:

If you are looking for a more comprehensive addiction treatment program that uses a 12-Step approach but also provides more structure and supervision, contact American Addiction Centers’ caring admissions navigators at . They can help you understand treatment options and check if your insurance covers treatment at one of AAC’s facilities. There are also free alcohol abuse and drug addiction hotline numbers you can call.

3. Do You Have to be Religious to Join a 12-Step Program or Group?

The original 12 Steps of AA encourage a spiritual path to recovery that is not necessarily affiliated with a particular religion. Terms such as “God” or “Higher Power” may be used in the recovery process, while leaving each individual to define what those terms mean.

Some people don’t identify as being spiritual or believing in a higher power and may find it more comfortable to join a mutual support group that doesn’t have a spiritual foundation like SMART Recovery.

4. Do You Need More Structured Addiction Treatment?

Some people who struggle with alcohol addiction may struggle with mental health and substance use disorder and may require more structured care. This may include detoxification, therapy, medication management, or medical supervision at an inpatient or outpatient facility.

If you are unsure what level of care you need, talk with your doctor or mental healthcare practitioner about treatment options and what type of treatment could best support your health and long-term recovery.

5. What Is a Sponsor in a 12-Step Program?

Twelve-Step programs like AA and NA include sponsorship to help support members. Sponsorship is the process of one member supporting another by meeting one-on-one outside of a formal 12-Step meeting to share their experiences and hope for recovery.

People who are sponsors have completed all 12 Steps and have significant time in sobriety. Those being sponsored may be newcomers, but many people with long-term sobriety also have sponsors.7

Each sponsor may have their own boundaries around meeting and talking; however, many sponsors make themselves available by phone, text, email or to talk in person outside of meetings.7

Find 12-Step Programs Near You

If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use disorder and want help, know that you’re not alone. There are many people that understand your struggle and are ready to support you like the caring admissions staff at AAC. We are available 24/7 to take your call if you need information about addiction treatment. Call to speak with a navigator and begin your journey toward a healthier life. You can also check your insurance benefits online now to determine whether your insurance provider will cover rehabilitation.

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