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[ Opinion ]

The 12 Step Effect on Addictions Counselling

I’ve been in the addictions field for around a decade. My inspiration in joining the addictions counselling ranks came from my own personal journey in recovery. After battling addiction for several years I finally became sober by joining a 12 Step fellowship and working the 12 Steps as laid out in the Basic Text of Alcoholics Anonymous. In all the various treatment centres I have worked at there have been fellow employees who also found recovery through a 12 Step program. I have found that counsellors who sobered up with AA or CA or NA, etc. can be divided up into several categories. Here are the three I see most often.

The first type is the hard-core, only 12 Steps will work, counsellor. This is the type of guy (or gal) who upon meeting a new employee says something silly like, “are you one of us?” These types of counsellors are close-minded to other approaches to recovery just as they may have been close-minded to something like Alcoholics Anonymous prior to becoming sober. They openly mock those employees without 12 Step recovery. When I first began working in the addictions field I would have fallen, for the most part, into this category. Luckily I was exposed to the right kind of people and philosophies and have since broadened my perspective.

The second type of counsellor who found recovery in a 12 Step fellowship is the 12 Step Apologist. This type of counselor tries to distance himself from AA, CA, NA, etc. as much as possible going so far as expressing embarrassment towards their exposure to the program. They openly mock 12 Step suggestions, change the wording of the Steps and make fun of those counsellors who try to share their experience with the program. These guys have gone over to what I call the dark side of addictions philosophy using only “science-based” interventions to help people. This counsellor disregards their own spiritual awakening thinking that it doesn’t belong in the so-called professional setting of addictions counselling.

The third type of counsellor is the one who is comfortable with his own 12 Step journey and is not afraid to share it with clients. He is not embarrassed by it and tires to impart that power a 12 Step approach can have on someone seeking recovery. At the same time this person is open to new ideas that may be beneficial to recovery even if he doesn’t use them himself. I like to think I am in this category. I realize that things not written in the Big Book of AA can be beneficial to recovery. I have not tried yoga but have seen its benefits. Saying this I recently came under fire at a former job when I suggested reducing mandatory yoga from four times a week to three times a week in order to include an extra 12 Step meeting, inferring that it may be more beneficial to a newcomer’s recovery.

 Other interventions I have not tried but seen help people with addictions have been acupuncture, hypnosis therapy and mindfulness. I still believe that a 12 Step Program is essential for success in recovery but realize that the interventions I have mentioned, and that I have not, are also a big part in helping a person find stable sobriety.

Counsellors with a personal 12 Step background can be a very powerful tool in the fight against addiction as long as they realize, as the Big Book also states, that their experience is not the be all and end all of addiction interventions.