What is a 12 Step Model Rehab?

If you or a loved one is in search of a rehabilitation program or clinic, 12 step is almost certain to come up. The National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services shows that 12-step models are used by 74% of treatment centers in the USA, either as a primary treatment method or an optional one. While almost everyone has heard of 12 Step, and of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 12-step treatment program, most of us have very little idea of what makes 12 step a 12 step.
If you are considering a rehabilitation program, it is important for you to know what it’s about, how it works, and what you will get out of it.

What is the 12 Step Model?

The 12-step model is a process of rehabilitation where substance abusers and addicts are walked through the process of facing and overcoming each of the behaviors responsible for addiction. This model was originally developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Smith for Alcoholics Anonymous, as a means of recognizing problems and moving past them to a substance free life. 12 Step uses therapy, group therapy, and group accountability to produce results. By helping members to continue to progress after the initial withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, 12 step models can be highly effective in helping users to get clean or sober, and in preventing relapse.
In most cases, a 12-step rehab facility will start you out with in-patient care to help you through the initial physical withdrawal of the drug. You will then receive continued outpatient care, including group therapy as you progress through the 12 steps.

The 12 Steps

In most cases, 12 step models use slightly different steps that have been tailored to meet the needs of the substance or behavior that they are treating. 12 Step groups, typically known as fellowships, exist to treat everything from alcohol and substances such as cocaine and heroin to gambling and sex addictions.

  1. Powerlessness – Most substance users have difficulty in admitting that they are powerless against their addiction and many delude themselves or maintain a fiction that they can ‘stop any time they want’. The first of the 12 steps is admitting that you are addicted and that you cannot stop, you are ‘powerless’ against the addiction. This is an important step because it enables addicts to ask for help.
  2. A Greater Power – 12-Step models are typically Christian-based, although in some cases they can support multiple religions. In step 2, addicts must admit that something greater than themselves is necessary to restore their sanity and their lives to order. This step is designed to combat an ego, which typically becomes inflated through substance use, as people use substances to prop up their ego. Here, users must admit that they cannot fix it and that they need help. Because women typically turn inward, sacrificing their ego to maintain responsibilities and appearance when addicted, this step can help women to stop hiding so that they get the assistance they need.
  3. A Decision – In traditional 12-step, this step involves making the decision to turn your life over to God, to live as he sees fit. However, in variations of 12-step, this step can also include making the decision to better yourself.
  4. A Moral Inventory – Honestly searching and approaching yourself and listing flaws as well as positive points is an important part of 12 step rehab. Here, the goal is to define where you are and what you have to fix so that you can move forward.
  5. Admitting Your Wrongs – Step 5 is the process of admitting and accepting the exact nature of your wrongs, to God, to yourself, and to another human being.
  6. Ready for Change – In step 6, you must admit to God or to a person that you are ready for change, and that you are ready to remove all the defects of your character that led you to substance use.
  7. Asked for Change – Here, you ask God to remove your defects.
  8. Make a List – You make a list of the people you have harmed and create plans to make amends with them.
  9. Make Amends – You directly make amends with people you have harmed.
  10. Personal Inventory – Continue to take a personal inventory of wrongs and faults, admit when you are wrong, and learn to be discerning in your behavior.
  11. Seeking God – You continually seek God as you understand him, through prayer and meditation.
  12. Spreading the Message – You attempt to carry the message of what you have learned to others who are addicted.

The 12 steps are intended to help addicts to tackle the root ‘maladies’ behind their addiction, and throughout the manuscript, the 12 Step process tackles negative emotions including discontent, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and anger.


Group Format

12-Step model rehab involves long-term group therapy, with regular meetings where members are speakers as well as listeners. The goals of these meetings are diverse and can include accountability, plans, tools, resources, and many other topics. As a member, you will gain advantage of supports and will be asked to choose a sponsor.
General Supports – General supports are people who offer basic support, who offer to go out and talk to you, who give you a ride, or who give you their phone number in case you need someone to talk to. Most members of the group will eventually function in this way.
Temporary Sponsor – You will likely be assigned a temporary sponsor to help you when you first join a 12-step group. This person will likely help you to understand the meetings, help you to understand what is going on, may direct you, and may help you to approach harsh truths about yourself.
Sponsorship – All 12 step participants are encouraged to find a sponsor among the existing members of the fellowship. In some cases, your rehabilitation center will assign you a sponsor, but for the most part, choosing a sponsor is a personal thing that you must do yourself. Most 12 step programs use the idea that you ‘like what the sponsor has” or that you want the sober or clean life that the sponsor has built for themselves. For this reason, you typically choose people who have similar experiences, who you mesh well with, or who exhibit the kind of personality changes that you wish to see in yourself. Sponsors offer advice, can help by giving advice, can talk and listen and understand, and can provide support when cravings hit. The exact services provided by the sponsor typically depend on the sponsor. Every person is eventually expected to serve as a sponsor to new members.

Does 12 Step Work?

12 Step model rehab is one of the most common forms of rehabilitation for a reason. While the efficacy of the model typically depends on the participant’s willingness to change, many addicts see permanent change when attending 12 step. One study showed that 67% of people who attended at least 27 weeks of AA remained abstinent at a 16 year follow up, compared to just 34% who did not attend regularly. For the long term, 12 step programs are close to comparable to other forms of rehabilitation, including cognitive behavioral therapy. Overall, studies suggest that regularly attending meetings and participating in group activities boosts your chances of staying clean or sober, in part because of the continued therapy through the group, and in part because of the social and group accountability offered by the program.
12 step model rehab is very common, and there are many different versions of the program. If you or a loved one is a looking for a rehabilitation center, it is important to do your research, to make sure that the clinic and the program works for you, and to ensure that the person getting the treatment is ready for change.
The Oceanfront Recovery Addiction Treatment Program can help you or your loved one through the process of recovery from addiction to any substance. Our clinicians focus on bringing the underlying causes of addiction to the surface with a modern and effective recovery program in a beautiful beachfront setting. Contact Oceanfront Recovery today for a confidential assessment, and begin the journey of recovery today.