The University of Arizona

Treatment Modalities and Treatment Settings for Illicit Drug Abuse
Psychosocial Treatment:
Self-Help Groups and 12-Step Oriented Approaches

Most self-help groups are based on a 12-step approach that defines substance dependence as an incurable, progressive disease that has physical, emotional, and spiritual components. The 12 steps of recovery focus on:[1]

  • Surrender and acceptance of one’s disease
  • Personal inventory
  • Making amends and personal change
  • Bringing the message to others.

The 12 steps used in self-help groups are derived from the original 12 steps developed by Alcoholics Anonymous:[1]

    1. We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—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.

Active participation in self-help groups has been correlated with better outcomes, possibly because self-help group members have role models, social support, opportunities for social interactions, a broad availability of self-help groups to chose from, and self-determined schedules. In general, a referral to a 12-step program can be helpful at all stages in the treatment process.[1]



  • (1) Alcoholics Anonymous. A.A.'s Twelve Steps. Web 2007Available from: URL: