The Twelve-step treatment approach and theory are the most widespread model for addiction treatment and for a good reason. 12-step addiction treatment has a long history of helping people who struggle with alcohol and drug problems.

Although mainly associated with peer-support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous, the 12 Steps are now part of many other rehabilitation programmes. 

Shortly after their creation, the 12-step philosophy was used to develop the Minnesota Model, which is an addiction treatment model based around treating addiction patients together, and not within a mental health hospital setting.  A multidisciplinary team approach and an evidence-based approach are other features of the Minnesota model.  Within this treatment approach, patients who are going through the same thing can support and encourage each other and form life-long connections and networks to enable continued sobriety in the community.

Both the 12 Steps and the Minnesota Model have had impressive success rates around the world, which is why they form the basis of the program at Castle Health’s facilities. A review in March 2020 by the Cochrane Library, an organisation renowned for its analyses of scientific research, analysed 27 studies into the efficacy of 12 Step treatment. The researchers concluded that 12-Step Facilitation works as well as or better than other scientifically proven treatments (such as CBT) in promoting abstinence from alcohol addiction.

At Castle Health programmes we use the 12 Step Model alongside CBT and other evidence-based therapies. Having a strong evidence base is essential for us and we can wholeheartedly recommend our evidence-based treatment to our patients. 

Who Created the 12-Step Programme?

The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith and Bill Wilson, put together the 12 Steps shortly after the fellowship was created. The full text of the 12 steps was first published in the first AA Big Book in 1939.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous soon became a staple for many other mental health support groups, and today, they are utilised in over 35 other fellowships including Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Al-Anon, Cocaine Anonymous (NA), Overeaters Anonymous (OA), Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). The 12 Step approach continues to help people with various psychological difficulties, including codependency, eating disorders and sex addiction.

What Is the Purpose of the 12 Steps?

The purpose of the 12 Steps is to help those struggling with addiction, dependency, behavioural issues, and other psychological problems. They are also used in many support groups for families and friends of those dealing with the above issues.

The 12 Steps were carefully designed and ordered to aid a person in their sobriety journey. They serve as the foundation for a recovery process which consists of the following goals:

  • Acknowledging the lack of power or control over an addiction;
  • Finding a motivating factor, or “higher power”, as a source of strength;
  • Realising and analysing the wrongs one has committed in the past – especially since those mistakes could have contributed to one’s addiction;
  • Taking responsibility and making amends for those mistakes when possible;
  • Changing one’s lifestyle and behaviours for the better;
  • Paying it forward by helping others struggling with the same (or similar) addictions.

This altruistic model has proven itself over and over again, successfully helping millions of people begin their recovery.

Are the 12 Steps Religious?

The founders of the AA were influenced by Christian philosophy, this influenced the creation of the 12 Steps. 

Twelve-step groups were never about promoting a particular religion. Rather, they were a means of helping people to look outside of themselves to find the solution to their addiction.

Nowadays modern 12 Step treatment centres use the idea of a Higher Power to mean something special to the individual – it can be religious or non-religious, spiritual or human, it can be a loved one, it can be the ideal of a sober life, it can be nature, positivity or human resilience.

There are also twelve-step based groups that have the same concept but with a less spiritual approach such as SMART Recovery.

The Importance of the First Step in the 12-Step Programme

The 12 Step philosophy was the first to recognise that addiction is a chronic psychological illness. This was an important, transitional point that changed how alcoholism and drug addiction would be treated. 

It can be seen just from the first step alone. It requires the person to admit powerlessness over their addiction. Powerlessness implies that the situation is, to some degree, out of one’s control. Therefore, the first step recognises that addiction is a chronic disease or an illness, rather than a consequence of poor character and judgement. 

Before addiction was recognised as a legitimate mental illness, this philosophy helped many people take back control of their lives. Knowing that their flaws were not their fault gave them the necessary boost to overcome their addiction.

Twelve-step programmes were the first to recognise that addiction is an illness. They also emphasised the importance of abstinence and a stable lifestyle, having support, and continuing care. All of these are highly important in recovery.

Using the 12 Steps for Addiction Recovery at Castle Health

We largely base our treatment plan on CBT and the 12 Step philosophy.

The 12 steps follow much of the same procedure as any addiction treatment programme. They help a person acknowledge their problem, build a stable lifestyle, boost their self-esteem, seek support, and prioritise continuing care.

We welcome people of all backgrounds and beliefs into our treatment programme.