12-Step groups are a form of group therapy, based on the spiritual, emotional and personal development program created by Alcoholics Anonymous for recovering addicts. The program uses a combination of peer support and peer pressure to get you to stop the self-destructive addictive behaviors that are ruining your relationships and your life, while you work in the group on the deeper emotional and spiritual issues that underlie these behaviors.

There are groups for virtually every type of neurosis: Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, mental illness recovery, and general personal development groups based on the 12-step program. The really powerful thing about 12-step groups is that everyone, including the group facilitators who are themselves recovering addicts, can relate to what you're going through.


  • The purpose of the group is usually well defined, based on the particular addiction

  • Other people really understand what you're going through

  • Encourages extremely honest sharing

  • Widespread and easy to find

  • Very inexpensive

  • Good peer support

  • Offers a spiritual path in addition to emotional healing


  • You end up hanging around with other people with the same problem or dysfunction

  • Once-an-addict always-an-addict philosophy can prevent full recovery

  • You tend to see everything as an addiction, even normal behavior

  • Not everyone can stomach the idea of a higher power

  • You can become addicted to the group process

  • Leaving the group and moving on can be difficult

Graham Stoney

Graham Stoney

I struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. I created The Confident Man Program to help other men live the life of their dreams. I also offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype so if you related to this article contact me about coaching.


Matt · March 11, 2012 at 11:17 am

I've been blessed to never have to tackle the tough subject of addiction personally but this point you made, Graham:

"You end up hanging around with other people with the same problem or dysfunction.."

has always made me wonder when thinking about such support groups. I always pondered what the help verses hinderance ratio would be of spending some much time with others who share the same 'weaknesses' as yourself and whether or not that would make it easier to slip into and justify old habits seeing that you're not 'unusual' for having such afflictions in your life.

I can certainly see the pros but wonder if they're outweighed by the cons. As I mentioned though, I've never experienced such a meeting first hand so cannot comment with authority.

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · March 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Well some people swear by 12-step programs, others find other things more helpful. It's horses for courses I suspect.

Anthony · October 14, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Yes I agree. I believe all groups have a tendency for its members to relate from a certain way. That's because people want to belong. I also believe there are some who are still able to differentiate and discern for themselves without creating waves within the group. It does sound a bit basic to admit to a problem and then have your whole identity based on that description. My understanding is that there is a failure to communicate ones honest issue or problem. As in life we go through stages. It seems that in early childhood we are guided more and this can appear to be basic and black and white. So I believe that learning to keep it simple and honestly owning up to mistakes is the foundation for moving through life and developing or growing. My observation is that adults that are well rounded know how to practice an inclusive style of communication. This I believe is due to the ability to comfortably accept the grey way of looking at issues. So for me it is about allowing people to be where ever they are at and trusting that if I can maintain this fearless attitude then I don't need to defend myself or convince anyone to do anything that I want. I'd also like to respect the differences and trust that people are doing the best they can based on their experience and what they know to be true or their reality. Does this sound like a paradox or an oxymoron. Thanks for the discussion topic Graham.

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · October 15, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Sounds like a very astute observation; I couldn't agree more! Thanks for the feedback Anthony.

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