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12 Steps explained – What are they and why are they effective?

Why the 12 Steps?

Recovery Centers of America fully embrace the 12 Steps as an effective approach to continued recovery – particularly when combined with other addiction treatment methodologies such as behavioral therapies, psychiatric care, and Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) (when clinically appropriate). At RCA, an immersive 12 Step curriculum is offered as a component of each of our patient’s individualized treatment plans.

Meg Fenn explains the 12-Steps in everyday terms.

12 Steps – Part 1
12 Steps – Part 2
12 Steps – Part 3

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

First developed in 1935 by Bill Wilson & Dr. Bob during the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the 12 Steps is a program of recovery designed to help individuals suffering from alcoholism and addiction attain long-lasting, contented sobriety.

The 12 Steps outline a path to spiritual progress through a series of actions designed to elicit what The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous refers to as a “psychic change” – a complete mental, emotional, and spiritual shift in perception.

We believe the 12 Steps can be a critical element of a long-term recovery program. Accordingly, we include the teachings and principles into our treatment program.

What are the 12 Steps?

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are as follows:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—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 results of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

For additional information on AlcoholicFor additional information on Alcoholics Anonymous or to find an AA meeting near you, visit For information on Narcotics Anonymous or to find an NA meeting near you, visit

Introduction to the 12 Step Program

What are the 12 Steps of recovery?

What are the 12 Steps of recovery? We hear this often, so to help patients who have minimal or no knowledge of the 12 Steps approach to recovery, we apply the research-based and thoroughly tested Open Doorways toolkit developed by the Treatment Research Institute (TRI) in Philadelphia. This method of introduction guides patients through a series of interactive sessions, including:

  • Asking questions about the 12 Steps: This introduces the Steps and allows patients to voice any questions and concerns. For instance, 12 Step encourages reliance on a spiritual foundation, but many groups give individuals the freedom to choose their own version of a “Higher Power.” This choice often helps patients let go of any religious resentments or preconceived prejudices toward spiritual practices.
  • Finding the right fit: This session encourages patients to attend a 12 Step meeting to join a group that may be instrumental in the patient’s ‘community of recovery.’
  • The first three steps: Patients are introduced to the first three Steps. They’ll explore themes of acceptance, powerlessness, and surrender. They’ll reflect on what a Higher Power means to them and learn to recognize defense mechanisms that keep them stuck in addictive patterns.
  • Sponsorship and making connections: Here, patients become familiar with the sponsor and sponsee relationship, and are taught the importance of making connections with others.
  • Building healthy relationships: This session helps develop a further understanding about the 12 Steps and encourages patients to attend meetings and work the Steps.

Applying the 12 Steps

The 12 Step approach to rehabilitation treatment is embraced throughout the world, so you can find support where you are or wherever you go. Accordingly, we advise patients to keep in contact with ‘sober supports’ they make during treatment at one of our locations. The definition of a recovery support varies for each person – it could be someone who helps you continue your 12 Step education, teaches you more about each specific step, or even a buddy to introduce you to other people in recovery. We’ll help you surround yourself with 12 Step connections.



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