How the 12-Step Principles Work in an Outpatient Recovery Plan

man at aa meetingEver since the 12 Steps were developed by the founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1930s, they have been used as fundamental guidelines for recovery. Today, the 12 Steps are at the heart of many of the top addiction treatment programs. These steps provide valuable principles for alcoholics and addicts who seek recovery on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. In outpatient rehab programs, the 12 Steps are used in many ways, including the following:

  • To help addicts understand the causes and consequences of their disease
  • To provide support, guidance and hope through meetings with peers
  • To give the recovering addict a spiritual framework for sobriety
  • To help the addict mend relationships with others
  • To build strength of character through an ongoing self-inventory
  • To help the addict restore a sense of self-worth based on spiritual values
  • To offer a path for continued healing through service to others

The 12 Steps arose from a tradition of love and acceptance. Therapists who integrate their principles into treatment aim to teach their clients to accept themselves and others without judgment. This attitude allows patients to rebuild a damaged sense of self on a stronger, more compassionate foundation.

Recovering with the 12 Steps

For some people who seek help for drug or alcohol addiction, rehab represents their first exposure to the 12 Steps. Others may have completed the steps in the past, but they’ve stopped working the program after a relapse. A 12-Step facilitation program provides an introduction or a reintroduction to these guiding principles. Outpatients learn about the history and background of the 12 Steps and review each step through group discussion.

12-Step facilitation gives you the opportunity to find out whether this approach to recovery is right for you. Some patients are uncomfortable with the spiritual emphasis of this tradition; others don’t like the idea of surrendering their will to a higher power. The concept of addiction as a lifelong disease, an idea that’s central to Alcoholics Anonymous, is hard for some people to accept. You should never be made to feel that the 12 Steps are being forced on you.

For those who find the steps useful and want to adopt them as a blueprint for recovery, 12-Step meetings are available through outpatient rehab programs. Meetings are held at the outpatient facility itself and in mental health centers, churches and clubs throughout most communities. 12-Step groups are free, widely available, and provide a reliable source of motivation and support.

Working the Steps in Outpatient Rehab

The 12 Steps are based on the belief that the best support system for a recovering addict is a group of other addicts who have been through the same experiences. That’s what makes this approach the ideal foundation for a group-oriented outpatient rehab program. Meetings typically last for 60 to 90 minutes, a format that’s easy to fit into a flexible outpatient schedule. Participants are asked to share their own recovery experiences but discouraged from interrupting each other or from openly questioning each other’s choices.

Most importantly of all, the 12 Steps have a proven success rate within the addiction treatment community, even for hard-to-treat clients who suffer from psychiatric disorders as well as substance abuse. A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that 12-Step programs helped to reduce the rate of hospitalization and relapse in addicts with co-occurring addictions and mental health conditions. The study found that addicts who consistently attended meetings were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or to have a recurrence of their mental health symptoms.

The 12 Steps provide a foundation for the intensive outpatient program at The Oaks at La Paloma’s rehab center in Memphis, Tennessee. Our award-winning treatment model draws from the wisdom and compassion of the 12 Steps to help you achieve your recovery goals. Call us today to begin the healing process through our flexible, personalized treatment plans.


By Krystan Anderson, LPC-MHSP
Director, The Oaks at Foundation Memphis