Skip to content

Clinical Treatment

12-Step Groups and Relapse Prevention

A major way that clinical treatment can help patients in recovery is by introducing them to 12-step groups and relapse prevention techniques.

The Importance Of 12-Step Groups To Relapse Prevention

Many rehab facilities introduce patients to 12-step groups to give them the chance to give them a chance to hear and share experiences of strength, hope, and perseverance. 12-step groups can help prevent relapse, teach better self-control, and provide permanent healing. 12-step groups help patients create healthy relationships and connections with others who have shared experiences. Patients also gain the support of a community, learn to overcome temptations, and form a team who will hold them accountable, assisting with relapse prevention.

Paid Advertising. We may receive advertising fees if you follow links to the BetterHelp site.

Online Addiction Counseling

Get professional help from an online addiction and mental health counselor from BetterHelp.

Get Matched
Begin Therapy
  • Personalized Matching Process
  • Easy Online Scheduling
  • 30,000+ Licensed Therapists


The 12-Step Model

12-step programs are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the world’s oldest and largest alcoholism support group. Individuals in recovery meet in groups with others in recovery to bond and share stories. Each week, a new group format, such as discussion groups, literature groups, and speaker meetings, are available to members to gain new insight and hear the message of experience, strength, and hope.

Group members approach sobriety by following the 12 steps, based on those found in the Big Book used in Alcoholics Anonymous. Developed by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Steps groups encourage principles of humility, willingness, hope, honesty, brotherhood, and perseverance in overcoming addiction.

Participants are encouraged to attend meetings daily and obtain a sponsor, which is someone who has a minimum of one year in recovery and has completed the 12-steps. A sponsor takes a newcomer through the 12-steps, which are a set of spiritual principles that assist individuals in recovery as they work to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol and other drugs. The program uses a spiritual approach that includes a belief in a higher power. Members define that higher power in their own way; it does not have to be God. The steps are a way of life. Therefore, once you reach step 12, you continue to live all the steps everyday in your daily life.

The 12 Steps

The original Alcoholics Anonymous 12 steps include:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 Traditions

Alcoholics Anonymous also includes the 12 traditions, which provide guidelines for the governance and practices of AA as an organization. These have been emulated by many other 12-step programs. The original

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon A.A. unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority — a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or A.A. as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. A.A., as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Need Addiction Support?

Help is available. Enter your phone number to receive a call from a treatment provider.

12-Step-Based Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous has helped millions struggling with alcoholism to seek peace and transform their lives. Over the past decades, dozens of other 12-step groups have been formed to help others overcome a variety of addictions. The largest of these is probably Narcotics Anonymous, which helps individuals struggling with a variety of drug addictions. Other 12-step groups include:

  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Heroin Anonymous
  • Pills Anonymous
  • Gamblers Anonymous
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous
  • Marijuana Anonymous

Relapse Prevention and 12-Step Groups

12-step models provide people in recovery with the community and support necessary to reinforce healing. When patients in recovery are in group settings, they have the ability to ask for help from their peers without shame and judgement, as well as listen and relate to others and gain support. Studies reveal a link between a patient’s active role in support groups and long-term recovery, as regular attendance is the best way to begin and maintain healing. Having a sponsor and reading 12-step related content are additional tips that can assist with relapse prevention.

The spiritual focus of 12-step groups greatly assists in creating feelings of hope and connection with individuals in recovery. Since addiction is considered a disease of the mind, body, and spirit, using 12-step programs as a process to heal along with other self-help techniques aids in renewing one’s outlook on life and maintaining long-term recovery. As individuals come to surrender to the disease of addiction, they begin to gain awareness of what they can and cannot control and learn how their addiction has impacted their lives. Through this process, they become more honest with themselves, which is key component of achieving everlasting core change.

Ready To Find The Right 12-Step Program To Ensure Relapse Prevention?

Addiction recovery requires commitment and support, and it is most likely to succeed when patients are treated in a treatment facility. If you or a loved one are looking to get sober before finding the right 12-step program for your needs, your chances of doing so will be greatest if you attend a treatment facility. Contact a treatment provider today for help.

Start Your Recovery Today

Help is available. Explore your recovery options and break free from addiction.