What to Know About the 12 Steps

Since its beginnings in the 1930s as the basis for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the 12-Step approach has become one of, if not the most, recognized programs to address alcoholism and addiction in all forms.

Read on to learn more about the 12-Step program, how it works, and how it helps support long-term recovery.

What Are the 12 Steps?

The 12-Step model is a set of structured steps designed to help people with substance use disorders achieve and sustain sobriety.

The phases of 12-Step programs are flexible. While a person is advised to do them in order, they are able to repeat a step or go back to a step at any given time. The program’s flexibility allows the person to recover at a pace tailored to their individual needs.


Oftentimes, in 12-Step groups, new members will have sponsors. Sponsors are members who have several years of experience in recovery and help mentor new members. If a new member feels like giving up or relapsing, they can call their sponsor for advice and support.

Generally, at the end of a meeting, an announcement will be made for those who wish to be matched with a sponsor. In some instances, the sponsor/sponsee relationship might not be a good match.

These relationships are always viewed as temporary, so if a particular partnership isn’t working out, there’s no harm in ending it and finding someone new to work with.

Which Groups Use the 12-Step Approach?

The 12-Step approach is most commonly associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, which has an estimated 1.35 million members in the United States alone. However, those who suffer from an alcohol addiction aren’t the only ones who may benefit from a 12-Step program.

Some other programs that use the same 12-Step approach include:

  • Debtors Anonymous (DA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Gamblers Anonymous (GA)
  • Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)
  • Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
  • Workaholics Anonymous (WA)
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous (SEA)
  • Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)

How Do 12-Step Programs Work?

man standing surrounded by peers at group therapy12-Step programs help individuals accept that they have a problem and identify their shortcomings in an effort to treat them.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 12-Step programs can greatly improve a person’s psychosocial function, which contributes to their ability to sustain sobriety.

The actions involved with many of the steps are associated with certain types of behavioral therapy that aim to identify issues and negative thought patterns, and then alter the thought pattern in order to change the resulting behavior.

The anonymous nature of most 12-Step groups makes it difficult to pinpoint success rates; however, the model’s long history is a testament to its effectiveness.

Many 12-Step programs are focused on specific demographics, such as men, women, or certain age groups. This can helpful for some people, as they may find it easier to relate to other members.

How Does a 12-Step Program Help With Aftercare?

12-Step programs help with aftercare by providing people with a support system after they leave rehab.

According to the National Institutes of Health, 40%–60% of people in recovery relapse back into substance use, which is why creating a robust aftercare plan is an essential part of treatment.

For many, the continuum of addiction care starts with detox, followed by comprehensive rehabilitation and ongoing aftercare.

Addiction rehab facilities, like Recovery First near Miami, often incorporate 12-Step meetings into their weekly schedules, which patients can continue in aftercare.

In meetings, group members can share their challenges with sobriety and recovery. Sponsors and fellow group members help build a fellowship and community, and can provide an extra support when the urge to relapse arises.

At Recovery First, aftercare planning begins on day 1. Our addiction treatment center in Hollywood, Florida, offers evidence-based programming that includes the 12-Steps and other types of group therapy.

For more information about our outpatient services and inpatient rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, or to start the admissions progress, contact us at today.

The Price of Not Getting Help
When contemplating the costs of addiction treatment for yourself, child, or loved one, consider the costs, or consequences, of “things as they are now.” What would happen if the substance abuse or addiction continued? Contact Recovery First, and we will help you or your loved one get the treatment needed to stop the dangerous, progressive effects of addiction.