What are the advantages and disadvantages of twelve-step programs?

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  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of twelve-step programs?
Jul 19th, 2015

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Pros of a 12 Step group

1. Effective alternative

Addicts in recovery need to learn and work the 12 Steps in order to recover. They need the Steps to avoid slipping back into the grip of their addiction, and to learn for the first time about a new way of living more rewarding than anything they have ever known. These are facts. Whereas most members of Fellowships work the Steps in a one-to-one relationship with a sponsor, a 12 Step group can be an effective alternative way to be guided through them. Such a group can be the answer for those of us who are desperate to learn how to work the program, but who have been unable to find a sponsor. Finding a sponsor can be especially difficult and frustrating for those of us who live in a foreign country, who due to language barrier may not have the same access or choice of sponsors.

2. Systematic approach

A 12 Step group is an organized and structured set up that gives you peace of mind. You will study and work through your 12 Steps week by week in a systematic fashion – and are guaranteed to complete them by a certain time. Of course, working the Steps is never completed but something we need to practise on a daily basis. Yet a group provides you with the opportunity to gain a basic knowledge of the 12 Steps and how their practice can provide you with the tools to live free from addiction – a day at a time.

3. Time framed

When working your Steps with a sponsor, you usually have the luxury of working the Steps at your own pace. On the one hand this is fine, but on the other hand, it can lead to your procrastinating. On occasion, the sponsor and sponsee never get around to finishing their study of the Steps, and this of course means you will loose the opportunity to experience the full benefits of the program. But in a 12 Step group setting, with a predetermined timeframe for advancing through the Steps, you are denied this “luxury”, of working at your own pace.  Here against a structured schedule and alongside your fellow group members you will have the encouragement and motivation to work and complete your 12 Steps.

4. Solution focused

A 12 Step Study Group is focused on the solution. Whereas Fellowship meetings are an indispensable source of support, places we go to find identification and share about our experiences; the objective of a Step Study Group is purely to study and work the 12 Steps in a structured way, with the guidance of facilitators.

5. Group unity

A great feature of a 12 Step group is that you will be with likeminded people, who share the same addiction and who have the same determination to work their 12 Steps. Here you will all be focused purely on achieving this objective whilst also benefitting from different views, interpretations and experiences of how each works their Steps.

6. Team support

A 12 Step group is based on teamwork. As a group you are united in your goal to work the 12 Steps and dependant on one another to complete them. Here you will not feel overwhelmed or confused at your efforts to work the Steps alone. But you will have each other’s support and encouragement to push thorough even the Steps that you may find most difficult. Note that in a 12 Step group you are encourage to buddy up with another group member, so you are certain to have at least one other participant with whom you will connect in a meaningful way.

7. Recovery tools

The ultimate advantage of participating in a 12 Step group is that you are guaranteed to work and complete your 12 Steps within a specific time frame. Then you will be able to apply the tools provided by the 12 Steps to live a new way of life free from addiction. These are the tools whose principles when applied will help you overcome any of life’s difficulties, to live in peace and serenity.

Cons of a 12 Step group

1. Unorthodox sponsorship

A 12 Step group is not the same as working your Steps with a sponsor. With sponsorship you enter into a relationship where you benefit from personal support and guidance throughout your recovery. A 12 Step group on the other hand is more like a classroom where you study and complete your 12 Steps within a time period. Here you are bound by rules and criteria’s and are expected to work as part of a team. Although Step Study Groups are not ideal nor the traditional way to work your 12 Steps, if the alternative is not to work them and remain ignorant of the 12 Step program, then they can be an effective way forward towards the solution.

2. Classroom setting

You are in a group setting and must comply with its rules and schedule of working through the 12 Steps or risk being asked to leave the group. Usually when working your Steps with a sponsor, you have more time to process, ask questions and experience how each Step works in your life before you move on to the next one. But in a 12 Step group you are theoretically taught about a Step in a formal way over the course of a session or two – and then move on to the next Step. It is then up to you to apply and experience how the Steps work in your life. In addition being part of a team you have to keep up with the speed and progress of the 12 Step group schedule.

Please let me know if you need any clarification. I'm always happy to answer your questions.
Jul 19th, 2015

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