12 Step Treatment Programme

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Call our local number 01603 513 091
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The 12 step programme is designed to help individuals with substance abuse addiction, such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) to recover from addictions. The programme at its beginning consisted of 12 steps in the 1930s, and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) supported its membership to defeat alcoholism and behavioural or substance abuse.

The 12-step programme is specifically designed to aid people in achieving and maintaining abstinence from alcohol and substance abuse addiction. The main idea behind the programme is that the participants must admit and surrender to a divine power to live a happy life.

Individuals are to acknowledge and improve their behaviours by attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and joining support groups. Ideas and experiences are shared in these meetings and help is sought in an attempt to achieve sobriety. Some people find support groups like Narcotics Anonymous helpful. 

What are the 12 Steps by Alcoholics Anonymous?

The 12 steps comprise a band of rules and actions to assist people in recouping from addiction. These rules are made to deal with a wide range of conditions like substance abuse, alcoholism, overeating, dependency, alcohol abuse, and gambling for long-term success.

Alcohol rehab treatment centres use 12-step programmes to support patients in achieving permanent recovery from addicted habits.

The 12 steps as set by Alcoholics Anonymous are as follows:

1.      Acknowledgment of the defects of character humbly – To admit being powerless over alcohol— and that lives had become unmanageable as a result.

2.      Having Faith – Believing that there is greater power for sanity restoration.

3.      Giving up – Deciding to commit self-will and life over in the care of a supernatural being.

4.      Moral inventory – Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of oneself.

5.      Admittance – Admitting to God, and other human being the exact nature of our wrongful deeds.

6.      Surrender – Being entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.      Requesting the Lord – Humbly asking God to get rid of several shortcomings.

8.      Remediation – Compiling a list of all those who have been harmed and making amends.

9.      Willing to make amends – Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when this will inflict injury.

10.  Personal inventory – Continue to take personal inventory, and when wrong, promptly admit to it.

11.  Recovery process and Connection with God – Improving self-consciousness and connecting with God through prayers and meditation. This helps to understand God; by praying for His knowledge to give the power to carry this out.

12.  Practicing the rules consistently – Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, carrying this message to alcoholics, and practising these principles.

The core idea of using a 12-step programme is to motivate recovering addicts to follow its tenet and join peers to attain a state of sobriety and overcome progressive illness.

Addiction experts admit that a belief-based treatment programme, personalized to the patient’s needs, allows people to attain and maintain abstinence compared to the other treatment options. The 12-steps are the most effective alternative to drug addiction treatment and other therapies.

The 12 Step Approach to Alcohol Addiction

The 12-step approach to alcohol addiction helps in learning how to deal with addictions, cope with triggers and maintain abstinence to live a decent life.

An Addiction treatment aims to help patients experience spiritual foundation or “spiritual awakening” – Alcoholics Anonymous used this phrase to represent the mandatory personality changes to overcome alcohol abuse, substance, and other addictions.

The Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are usually arranged in public places by addiction professionals and addiction counsellors like churches, schools, national institutes, and community centres. The treatment facility provides a forum for the addicts to share experiences, including the efforts and victories of those in the recovery process.

All participants learn the 12-steps together and work on them. Countless individuals have used the 12-step approach to alcohol addiction for decades as an addiction treatment. In most cases, participants triumph over addiction and become healthy community members while maintaining sobriety.

Alcohol abuse is an old narrative now and Alcoholics Anonymous introduced this life-changing programme for addicts as an effective medication for alcohol addiction which is FDA-approved and available for years. But medical establishments and society are just catching up now.

History of the 12 Step Programme for Alcohol Addiction

The 12-step programme belongs to mutual aid organisations with the primary purpose of recovering addicts and anonymous gamblers from dependence, substance abuse, behavioural addictions, and compulsions by treating addiction.

This programme was designed in 1935 by Dr Robert Holbrook Smith and Bill Wilson; the popular AA members known as “Dr Bob” and “Bill W,” as the first 12-step programme, Alcoholic Anonymous supported its membership.


Since then, several other organizations have followed the Alcoholic Anonymous approach to handling the problems like overeating, compulsive gambling, and drug addiction. In 1946, the twelve traditions were formally built to help addicts cope with addiction issues. The 12 traditions were later named 12 spiritual principles or 12-steps for alcohol addiction.

Every 12-step programme uses a version of AA’s recommended 12-steps which were published in the book “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism.” In 1939.

Alternatives to the 12 Step Model

For many years, people with alcohol addiction have had a confined set of treatment options. In recent years health practitioners, addiction counsellors, and organisations have had to team up to establish a new way of thinking about alcohol abstinence. This has led to a multitude of science-based treatments.

It’s crucial to understand that both the new and traditional treatments work to diverse extents. As with most health problems and addictions, particular treatments work better for particular people. For instance, Alcoholics Anonymous calls for sponsoring people, to experience the 12 steps of believing in the divine power, and staying sober. For some, this treatment works fine. Still, other people with AUD who aren’t religious, and can’t schedule time for attending meetings and group sessions find abstinence unavoidable. This set of people gets help from alternative recovery programmes and other sobriety support groups.

Below, is a highlight of the top 10 alternative treatments to the 12-step programme:

1.      SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery meetings are organized all over the country and are the best alternatives to the 12-step model and meetings by support groups and treatment facilities. They are established on a 4-point programme that combines coping strategies, motivation, cognitive-behavioural management, and models to live a sober life. SMART represents “Self-Management and Recovery Training.”

2.       RIA Health

RIA Health is an app-based non-AA addiction treatment programme that blends counselling and anti-craving medication. With this programme, the addicts get access to medical counselling, online support groups, addiction counsellors and a personal recovery coach from home. This 12-step programme alternative is more like a residential rehabilitation.

Dissimilar to several traditional programmes, RIA health is managed by addiction experts and healthcare professionals. Treatments are individualised to the patient’s goals whether the patient drinks less or not at all.

The programme is evidence-based and works on psychological and physical factors. Weekly group calls are arranged for peer support and 1 by 1 recovery support is offered. Flexible schedules with low-time commitment, a non-religious or secular alternative to alcoholics’ anonymous world services, and a mobile breathalyzer to observe the addict’s progress are some of the programme’s highlights.

The participants of the programme learn to cope with triggers and cravings, self-managing strategies to reduce anxiety levels and break habits, to deal with triggers, stigma, and shame.

3.       Moderation Management

Moderation Management is another alternative addiction treatment to the 12-step programme proposed by rehab clinics and treatment centres. It is designed for drinkers who are in the initial stages of addiction. The other therapies and meetings are outlined for behavioural changes. It involves a 9-step treatment programme. The patient sets goals, manages individual suffering, and learns coping strategies, self-management strategies, and drinking limits.

4.      Naked mind

This is an online programme for awareness. It comprises a community and various informal products (addiction medicine). The treatment provider helps in getting rid of the cravings and triggers by beliefs deconstruction about alcohol by addiction professionals and support groups.

5.       Women for Sobriety

This is another secular alternative to AA. Women with substance abuse disorders are treated by this addiction recovery support group. The updated Life Programme has been designed on 13 acceptance statements targeted to promote growth.

The programme aims for abstinence and the addicts are offered chat leaders, addiction counsellors, certified moderators, and in-person support groups. It welcomes women with all forms of addiction or substance abuse. The patients learn to address the problems, problem-solving strategies, and cognitive-behavioural strategies.

6.      The Tempest Sobriety School

This school has designed an 8-week online course for addicts and aims for abstinence. After abstinence, the users use the material for a year. The programme includes weekly lectures, an online course, Q & A sessions, a support community, addiction counsellors, and breakout groups. The patients learn intention-setting, mindfulness & meditation, craving strategies, and the creation of a sobriety road map.

7.      Harm Reduction for Alcohol (HAMS)

HAMS is a group led by peers who provide information and support to those who want to change their drinking habits. It’s another effective alternative to AA and consists of 17 steps. The programme’s goal is abstinence or moderation. The individuals are self-directed with peer support and resources, email groups, chat rooms, private Facebook groups, official HAMS articles and books, live meetings, and regular recovery plans.

8.      IGNTD Recovery

This online addiction programme is for those with drugs and alcohol dependencies. This alternative to 12 step programme offers live group support chats. Users can access the resources and documents for a year.

The programme is designed to maintain abstinence or moderation. It offers live group support chats, online courses for addiction, how to live shame-free, and a variety of teaching approaches to an individual’s recovery to meet self needs. The patients learn meditation, hypnosis, mindfulness, dialectical behaviour strategies, cognitive-behavioural strategies, and habit change strategies with mindset coaching.

9.       LifeRing

LifeRing organization is another excellent alternative treatment provider to the 12-step programme. This organization offers in-person, peer-to-peer support including online resources and meetings. The programme aims for abstinence. It includes email groups, forums, online and local meetings, addiction counsellors, and peer-to-peer support and it’s another great non-religious alternative to AA.

10.      SOS Sobriety

A secular organization for sobriety is a web of independent groups to assist addicts to maintain sobriety. This programme is for those looking for non-religious alternatives to anonymous alcoholics meetings. The primary purpose of this programme is the maintenance of sobriety. The patients are served with online groups, local groups, reliable treatment facilities and mutual support. They learn to maintain or at least achieve sobriety, rational decision making and follow a cycle of sobriety that includes acceptance, admittance, and prioritizing abstinence.

Over the past few years, society has changed its approach to treating AUD and substance abuse. These alternative methods work magically for people who are secular and prefer programmes that offer anti-craving medication with counselling.

12 Step Terminology 

The following terms are connected to the 12 Steps.

Altruism – this principle promotes the continuation of 12 Step groups within local communities. The principle outlines the desire to help others without expecting anything in return.

Acceptance – known as the key to recovery. Personal acknowledgement that a problem with substance use occurs is vital to ongoing recovery.

Denial – pretending a problem does not exist or that it’s not that bad stops the personal acknowledgement required early in recovery. Denial can also be used to blame others or situations for the substance use i.e. It’s his fault…it’s her fault…if I hadn’t lost my job.

Self-honesty – rehab promotes self-honesty. Recovery needs to be based upon the truth and not lies.

Willingness – recovery requires action. Talking in groups attending self-help meetings and maintaining abstinence all require willingness.

Open-mindedness – learning a new philosophy requires an open-mind. The philosophy of total abstinence from all alcohol of drugs and connectivity to a wider group of like-minded people requires a mind receptive to new ideas.

Spiritual Principles – different principles are found throughout the 12 Steps such as: honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, acceptance, hope, faith, trust, courage, integrity, humility, love and perseverance.

Implementing these principles into a sober way of living promotes long term recovery.

Wrap Up

Although the 12 steps programme is being utilized on the same ideas invented by the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous, the programme focuses on understanding, believing in, and surrendering to a “higher power” and having faith that God will help the recovering individuals to find the purpose and meaning in life thereby maintaining sobriety.

The programme delivers an incredible sense of “spiritual foundation” and engages the addicts in prayer and meditation for long-term success. This can be an effective addiction treatment for people as they triumph over their addictions and compulsions. Personal Recovery depends on your willpower and commitment to live a healthy, respectful, and sober life. Join the 12 step programme today by leaving all fears behind!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find 12 Step recovery meetings?

Your allocated Case Manager will help you find self-help meetings in your local area. Meetings are held across the UK and beyond. Below is a list of links for these meetings (currently being held online due to COVID-19):

It is worth mentioning at this point the only requirement for attendance at the self-help groups mentioned above i.e. AA, CA, GA, NA, SMART is ‘a desire to stop using’ and a person using a degree of self-autonomy can still attend these.

What is a Sponsor, and should I get one?

In rehab the person will hear a lot about 12 Step self-help groups as mentioned above i.e. AA, CA, GA & NA. If attending one Aftercare group (with Abbeycare) per week a person will be encouraged to join a local support group and go as often as possible to promote long term sobriety.

12 Step groups use Sponsors to guide a person through the programme. In short, a sponsor is a person who has completed the 12 Steps and has good sobriety.

SMART Recovery groups do not require a person to have a sponsor.

I don’t believe in God what should I do?

The 12 Steps are known as spiritual in nature not religious. Although the word God is used many times throughout the 12 Step Programme it is not a religious programme and follows no organised religion.

The 12 Steps use ‘a power greater than’ as a concept, when considering the word God, a perception of ‘a power greater’ immediately springs to mind.

Members who regularly present as Atheist can choose any ‘power greater’ than oneself and replace that word with the word God.

Also, the use of Acronyms is encouraged when considering God such as; Get Off Drink, Get Off Drugs or Good Orderly Direction.

The 12 Steps are designed to be all inclusive reaching all who attend regardless of personal beliefs.

My family don’t want me to go what should I do?

Family members are concerned at all times for the well-being of their loved ones. Entering into a rehab programme can be an uncertain time for all.

At the Family Support Group held within Abbeycare loved ones are informed about the benefits of community-based recovery and how the 12 Steps can help promote long term sobriety.

Why the 12 Steps what about other ways to recover?

It has been identified that the 12 Steps utilise a number of different treatment modalities such as: CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, MI Motivational Interviewing and Peer Led.

When facilitating groups, the trained professionals will draw upon the similarities in each model.

Abbeycare is a research led facility that utilises the best levels of care and support when delivering a rehab programme.

The 12 Steps are a tried and tested model of recovery that has links to many other treatment models and when used in combination have been shown to deliver unprecedented results.

Recovery is possible for anybody from any background or walk or life.

If you visualise yourself free from alcohol and drugs living a happy and productive life?

And wish to learn more about our Addiction Treatment or 12 Step rehabilitation programmes call our free 24/7 Helpline on 01603 513 091 or fill out the form below to speak to a trained addiction counsellor.

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