Scientific Research Shows Effectiveness of 12 Step Based Treatment

For years, I worked in the addictions treatment field and taught graduate courses in addiction at a local university. I also was, and still am, a strong, impassioned proponent of ongoing involvement in 12 Step Programs (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) as an integral part of the traditional modalities of addiction treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and other research based interventions. However, until about ten years ago, the only evidence of the effectiveness of the 12 Step Programs was dismissed by academics and mental health professionals as “anecdotal”, that is, reports based on stories by those directly involved in recovery such as 12 Step Program members, or on non-scientific surveys of AA or NA members, or statistics from treatment centers. Therefore, for the past 40 years or so, the only evidence of effective addiction treatment based on adequate and well controlled clinical investigations has supported treatment that did not include 12 Step Program involvement.

Happily, there is now increasing evidence, based on studies using valid scientific methodology, that the most effective treatment for addiction will include ongoing, significant involvement in 12 Step Programs, along with the traditional interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and other evidence based interventions. For an excellent summary of the evidence for the effectiveness of 12 Step based treatment, please go to this resource published by Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, entitled, Recent Research Offers Compelling
Support for the Effectiveness of Twelve Step-based Treatment

Comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams,, 05/11/2017.

4 thoughts on “Scientific Research Shows Effectiveness of 12 Step Based Treatment

  1. Great post. Thank you for taking the time to write about the scientific proof that is becoming available for the success of a 12-Step program. It is true that sometimes outside help is needed on the path of sobriety. I have so many ingrained issues, that the 12-Steps can’t help alone. Acceptance is the key to all our problems. Writing that it is normal to seek outside help is in and of itself helpful to finding acceptance,


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