What Are The Benefits of 12 Steps?

Meeting room during a break

What Are The Benefits of 12 Steps?

The 12 Steps are a set of principles and actions that underpin the foundation of mutual support groups for individuals recovering from addiction. The 12-Step approach to addiction recovery was developed in the 1930s by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. They popularized the 12-Step philosophy through Alcoholics Anonymous, which became the basis for other fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous. 

The 12 Steps were created through the Christian belief in a higher power (God), to which humans are powerless and at the mercy of that power. However, not all 12-Step programs require faith in religion but instead encourage members to discover their own higher power. For example, a higher power can be found in nature or in art.

12-Step Groups Are Popular, Accessible, and Free 

In the United States, 12-Step groups are popular and can be found in most cities. It is estimated that approximately 1.2 million Americans belong to one of the 55,000 Alcoholic Anonymous groups across the country. A large number of individuals also attend Narcotics Anonymous. 

These groups are highly accessible and free to join. Axillary groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are available to support family members of loved ones with an addiction. You can check online to see where meetings are being held in your community.

Adding Value to Recovery Through Fellowship

The success of 12-Step programs is often measured in terms of whether they help members maintain abstinence and improve their psychosocial function. 

How the program does this can partly be explained by its ability to cultivate a fellowship of supportive peers. Members often face similar challenges, and sharing those experiences builds trust and deep bonds with others.

Joining a 12-Step program means joining a community built on mutual trust and a shared interest in overcoming one’s mental, physical, and spiritual shortcomings. While individual and group therapy is an important component of overcoming addiction, 12-Step programs have something much different to offer.

Creating a Social Network That Supports Recovery 

Once you’ve completed a treatment program and have spent some time in a sober living home, you might come to realize that you don’t have many friends that you can be around without being triggered to use substances. Perhaps all of your old friends are still using drugs or alcohol or continue to spend time in places where you used to use. 

By committing yourself to a 12-Step program, you are opening yourself up to the opportunity to connect with people who have the same goal of staying sober and creating a new circle of like-minded friends. Membership can help you expand and diversify your social network to include individuals who support abstinence and respect your healing process. 

These types of supportive social networks can: 

  • Reduce your exposure to activities that involve drinking or using drugs
  • Reduce the chance of cravings being triggered by environmental cues
  • Increase your participation in non-drinking activities

You might also find that your new social relationships are rewarding, adding value to not only your recovery but improving your life satisfaction as well. Importantly, hanging out with friends that are abstinent can boost the confidence you have in your ability to resist temptations and stick to your recovery goals. 

Behavioral Change Processes That Foster Success

12-Step groups largely owe their success to their proficiency at promoting positive social behavioral changes in members. According to one study, “The changes in the individual’s social network and … common behavior change processes appear to contribute more to the positive benefits of 12-Step mutual support groups than do 12-Step specific factors or spiritual mechanisms.”

Groups facilitate behavioral changes by: 

  • Motivating members within the fellowship to bond
  • Providing a structured meeting environment
  • Helping members gain a sense of goal-directedness
  • Establishing behavioral norms about how to make progress toward abstinence
  • Having members develop and engage in rewarding activities that can take the place of substance-related activities
  • Helping members develop more effective coping skills and increase their self-efficacy


Deciding to Join a 12-Step Group 

12-Step support groups have helped many people find direction and inspiration in their lives. Reports have shown that when meetings are attended consistently, attendees have a higher likelihood of remaining abstinent. These programs are successful at improving substance use outcomes through the community support, goal direction, and structure they provide. 

In addition, support groups expose members to positive role models and reward them for engaging in substance-free activities. Such an approach aids individuals in building up their self-confidence and ability to cope with stressors. 

Becoming a fellow of a 12-Step program has several benefits that can help you stay sober and enhance your quality of life through social bonds.