What is 12- Step Therapy?

A common and traditional therapeutic method, 12-step therapy typically addresses substance abuse and dependency. This therapy is organized into 12 steps that confront the cognitive process in which individuals decide to continue use. Within this model, it is taught that addiction is a decision made by an individual’s entire essence, making it important when undergoing 12-step therapy, that individuals embrace their physical, mental, and spiritual selves in order to fully combat addiction. Developed in 1935, 12-step therapy was initially utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a way of deconstructing addiction. Today, there are over 148,826 Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups across the globe, all of which continue to revolve treatment around the 12-step model.  

12-Step Therapy

How Does 12-Step Therapy Work?


The 12-step method is talk therapy, conducted either in group or individual settings. This therapy introduces the concept of a higher power assisting in the recovery process, with every participant defining that power as he/she wishes.  Another unique component of this method is the acquiring of a sponsor. A sponsor is an individual who is an experienced member of the group whose job is to guide the new member through the 12 steps. The name “12- step therapy”  is derived from the following twelve guiding principles:

  1. Admittance of powerlessness over the addiction and our lives have become unmanageable.
  2. The belief that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Deciding to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.
  4. Making a moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We are entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. We humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Compiling a list of all persons we had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. We continue to take a personal inventory and when we are wrong promptly admit it.
  11. We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we carry this message to addicts and practice these principles in all our affairs.


Once the 12 steps have been completed, the individual is not considered cured. The therapy model is then subsequently used as a reference throughout the individual’s life. 

Partial Hospitalization Program

Is 12-Step Therapy Right For You?

With the volume of addiction treatment options, it is easy to be intimidated. If an individual is seeking treatment, it is important that they make an informed decision and consider all options so that they can enter the program best suited for them. 12-step therapy is offered at most addiction centers or AA/NA groups and often used concurrently with other therapies. It is important to remember that the purpose of 12-step therapy is to foster self-sufficiency and improve decision-making. The most important facet of addiction treatment is that the individual feels safe and that the treatment is tailored to their needs. If you are unsure which treatment is right for you, call Asheville Recovery Center and speak with an addiction specialist today.

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