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What is a 12 Step Integration Program?

What is a 12 step program? The Twelve Steps is a spiritual foundation for personal recovery from the effects of substance abuse.

What is the 12-Step Program?

The Twelve Steps is a spiritual foundation for personal recovery from the effects of substance abuse, both for the individual and their friends and family. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) first designed these 12 steps in the 1930s, and over the last 90 years, the same 12 step process has been expanded to help recover many forms of addiction. 


Members attend regular meetings with other people struggling with the same issues, and they work through the steps together and provide support for one another. Many members find that these steps are not only a way to conquer addiction but also a way of life. The 12 steps of AA are the foundation of the entire method. They are meant to be the guide to direct members to a new life of lasting sobriety and a substance-free lifestyle. The original 12 steps of AA have been adapted to our changing times, but the base premise stays the same for all recovery programs using the 12 step program steps.1

What Are the 12 Steps?

The 12 steps of recovery are evident. They focus on reconciliation with yourself and others and maintaining a healthier life. The first step in a 12-step program is to admit powerlessness. From that point, you can work on the rest of the 12-step model.1

African American businesswoman talking while being on group therapy at medical center.

The 12 Steps to Sobriety

The 12 Steps are designed to help you achieve and maintain sobriety and wellness. They include:

  1. 1
    Admit powerlessness – acknowledge that you cannot control this issue
  2. 2
    Find hope – before change can happen, believe that it is possible
  3. 3
    Surrender – surrender to the fact that you need help to change, it cannot be on your own
  4. 4
    Take inventory – search your soul identifying how this behavior affected yourself and others
  5. 5
    Share inventory – admit wrongs to others
  6. 6
    Become ready – accept character defects and be ready to let them go
  7. 7
    Ask God – ask God to help accomplish something needing more than determination
  8. 8
    List amends – make a list of those you harmed before recovery
  9. 9
    Make amends – make amends with those you have hurt to start healing relationships
  10. 10
    Continue inventory – maintain the course started
  11. 11
    Pray and meditate – quiet yourself to discover the plan your higher power has for your life
  12. 12
    Help others – go and serve others applying the principles to life

What Are the 12 Traditions?

The 12 steps of recovery lay out the spiritual path for individual members. The 12 traditions provide the principles that keep 12-step groups rooted and healthy. The 12 Traditions started in 1939 in the foreword of the first editions of the "Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous". Here are the traditions that serve as the guidelines for 12-step support groups.2


The 12 Steps program includes the following traditions:

  1. 1
    Unity: unity between the members gives support and allows them to make more progress.
  2. 2
    Leadership: leadership belongs primarily to God.
  3. 3
    Eligibility: the requirement for participation in 12-step meetings desiring to stop harmful behavior.
  4. 4
    Autonomy: 12-step groups should vary their meeting style best fitting their members.
  5. 5
    Carrying the Message: the purpose is to carry the message to those who suffer.
  6. 6
    Outside Enterprises: outside enterprises means that a 12 step group will not involve other organizations.
  7. 7
    Self-Supporting: every group should be self-supporting.
  8. 8
    Giving it Away: giving it away will remain non-professional.
  9. 9
    Organization: support groups keep the emphasis on true fellowship and their primary purpose. 
  10. 10
    Outside Opinions: opinion on outside issues is not permitted.
  11. 11
    Public Relations: no promotional actions and maintaining personal anonymity to protect others.
  12. 12
    Anonymity: anonymity creates the foundation of traditions reminding us to place principles above personalities.

Why the 12 Steps Program Works

This program works because of the fellowship with others and regular, weekly support from those who have recovered and those who are still working out their path to healing. 

How Long Does 12-Step Programs Take?

Twelve-step programs are not based on a certain timeline or length of treatment. This is because everyone’s journey will look different, and the primary purpose of a 12-step program is to find the support you need for healing. In the early stages of treatment, you should expect to attend meetings several times a week, possibly even daily. You may be wondering what the 12-step rehab success rate is and if it is worth trying.

AA, NA, and CA

Each of the main 12-step programs (AA, NA, and CA) regularly survey its members to assess the success rate. The median length of abstinence reported by AA and NA is greater than five years. Most respondents report attending an average of 2-4 meetings per week. This data suggests that long-term abstinence is achievable and sustainable among those who regularly attend meetings. Research also shows that participation in the 12 steps of sobriety is associated with improved psychosocial function and greater feelings of self-worth.3

Types of 12-Step Groups

Here is a list of 12-step programs that help with various addictions.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Heroin Anonymous (HA)
  • Marijuana Anonymous (MA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Dual Diagnosis Anonymous (DDA)

When available, choose a 12-step rehab program tailored toward your specific struggles. The fellowship you get with other members is much stronger when everyone has been through similar challenges.

Pros and Cons of the 12-steps

While the 12-step model has been around for nearly 100 years and has shown great success for some individuals, as with any treatment method there are pros and cons. Here are some pros and why this method is still so popular. The 12 steps are widely known, established, and organized.

Finding a meeting where the 12 steps are practiced should be easy. Having access to a supportive network of peers can be life-changing for those struggling with substance abuse.

Success Rate

In addition, there is little to no cost, which removes many barriers to starting treatment. However, these 12-step programs for addiction may not be the best fit for everyone. Some people are not interested in participating in a group setting.

Due to the anonymous nature of the group, there is a lack of an official shared success rate. The steps are also criticized for not addressing the needs of those struggling with mental illness, and when they were originally created, science had yet to prove a genetic link to addiction.

Do You Have to be Religious to Follow the Twelve Steps?

While religion tends to be connected to an organized set of beliefs, practices, and doctrines, 12-step programs clearly state that they are not organized or connected with any sect, politics, or institution. Therefore, you do not have to be religious per se to participate.

However, 12-step rehab groups are unapologetically spiritual in nature. A familiar axiom cited in AA and NA meetings asserts there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem.4

Fundamental Premise

The fundamental premise is that spirituality is subjective and should be defined by each member individually. Members are encouraged to develop their conception of God and discover what a higher power means for themselves. Spirituality is a vital part of the human experience, your connection to self, others, social groups, and traditions. It is concerned with human values, truth and experiences that provide meaning and purpose in life. Most cultures and people have some version of spirituality, and it is a powerful tool to utilize when seeking recovery. 

12 step program

What Are Some Alternatives to a 12-Step Program?

While many people have found healing through 12-step programs, you may be looking for alternative treatment options. Here are some popular options. 

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery)

SMART recovery is a fresh approach to addiction recovery. It is a transformative method of moving from addictive substances and negative behaviors to a life of positive self-regard and willingness to change.5

Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety or "S.O.S.” has helped countless thousands of addicted persons reclaim their lives for 30 years. Secular Organizations for Sobriety has welcomed anyone sincerely seeking sobriety from alcohol addiction, drug addiction, and compulsive eating. S.O.S. is a highly effective alternative to the 12-step model of recovery and provides yet another path to recovery from addiction.6

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is an organization of people who share practical experiences and sobriety support. LifeRing’s emphasis on the positive, practical present-day can turn anger and despair into hope and resolve. LifeRing respectfully embraces what works for everyone.7

Moderation Management

Moderation management is an official program that focuses on moderating drinking instead of abstinence.

Women for Sobriety

WFS believes that having a life-threatening problem with alcohol and/or other drug use is not a moral weakness, it is the symptom of a serious disorder that demands rigorous attention to healing. The Women for Sobriety New Life Program further promotes behavioral changes by positive reinforcement, cognitive strategies, letting the body help, and dynamic group involvement.8

The Wellbriety Movement

The Wellbriety Movement is a movement that provides culturally based healing for the Indigenous people. The group strives to build a community that supports healing from alcohol, substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, and intergenerational trauma.9

Learn More About Our Treamtment Programs

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