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12-Step Programs Critical Part of Rehab

Posted in Alcoholism Treatment

Addiction to alcohol or drugs can be tough to beat. Drug and alcohol rehab treatment is important. Wrong thinking patterns and habits need to be identified and replaced with new ways of thinking and behaving. Patients in rehab treatment benefit from outside help in identifying what problems led them to choose alcohol or drugs as a way to cope.

Still, it is what happens after rehab that continues to help the patient stay on the road to recovery. How sustainable the recovery proves is seems to be the true test of success. Studies repeatedly show that when rehab is followed by regular participation in a 12-step program, continued abstinence is far more likely.

The benefits of 12-step recovery programs are there whether the person’s rehab treatment was inpatient or outpatient. Time after time, the research has shown that when rehab is combined with 12-step aftercare, the likelihood of ongoing sobriety goes up. Longitudinal studies including participants from varying racial and socio-economic backgrounds have demonstrated that the 12-step programs benefit anyone who attends one or more meetings each week after rehab.

Since 12-step programs like AA do not necessarily adhere to standard psychiatric theory, there have been plenty of challenges as to their efficacy. However, the outcome of every study points to these programs as boosting sobriety. Just what it is about the 12-step programs that makes them so successful is still debated, but the benefits derived from them are unassailable.

It has been suggested that people who commit to attending one, two, three or even four 12-step meetings each week are demonstrating a high commitment to sobriety and that it is that commitment, rather than the program, which most contributes to success. That could be, but nevertheless, going even once a week does improve relapse prevention.

Others point to the constant reminders about thinking differently as the pivotal difference.  Learning new thinking patterns requires steady reinforcement and 12-step programs provide a regular diet of healthy thinking. Being reminded that sobriety is possible and that triggers can be handled with something other than substances is an important refrain.

Addiction is also an isolating behavior. 12-step programs break that cycle of isolation and provide a support group full of people who understand exactly what the person is going through. Each member of the group learns from others how they have been successful in dealing with shared challenges.

No one can say for certain whether it is admitting that you need outside help, reinforcing positive thinking or gaining confidence from a support network that makes 12-step programs work – we just know that they do. It will be interesting to learn what dynamics make a difference, but meanwhile, the important thing to know is that attending these meetings regularly makes a real difference in holding on to a sober life.