12 Step clubs have been the stepping stone millions of people have used to escape addiction. Those in recovery know that these organizations are fantastic support groups that help them overcome their challenges and stay on the path. Rehab, community agencies, hospitals, and the court system recognize these programs’ power and efficacy. Many therapists have learned that these programs contain valuable tools they can use in their day-to-day mental health practices.
How 12 Step Clubs Can Help Mental Health Care
An essential part of navigating mental health concerns is having a support group when things get tough. The focus of mental health care and 12-step clubs share similar goals. Overcoming your challenges, continuing personal growth, understanding your impact on others, and knowing how to set proper boundaries. Numerous 12-step programs can serve as a helpful adjunct to mental health care, with more appearing each year. Some examples include:
- Cocaine Anonymous
- Marijuana Anonymous
- Heroin Anonymous
- Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA)
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Sex Addicts Anonymous
- Overeaters Anonymous
You may notice that addiction is a central tenet of most of these groups. This makes sense as 12-step clubs find their roots in Alcoholics Anonymous. However, Co-Dependents Anonymous represents another kind of 12-step club. This organization focuses on how to have healthy, loving relationships with others. This includes taking accountability for our actions and learning how to set boundaries for ourselves.
Central to these programs is the concept of driving personal change and growth. Most of those in these programs are struggling with an underlying cause of their particular concern. Addiction, in particular, tends to be driven by untreated mental health concerns. The steps can help form a framework for taking positive action to address them.
This is something these organizations share with treatment modes like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This process focuses on exploring how we feel and think about our encounters with others. We then connect to how we behave and find ways to establish patterns of change. These patterns help us challenge our perception of the world and alter harmful thinking patterns.
The clinical term for these thought patterns is “cognitive distortions.” The 12-step club, perhaps more aptly, calls them “stinking thinking.” These two terms describe the same phenomena. Given this, it’s clear that the central goal of a 12-step club changes through psychotherapy.
Using The 12 Steps To Address Mental Illness
There are some core spiritual principles to the 12-step program that can help those battling mental illness. It’s important to distinguish between ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious.’ While many 12-Step groups ground their thinking in a higher power, that’s not what’s being presented here. The spiritual principles influence how we connect with others, ourselves, and our actions. These include:
- Personal responsibility
Distortions of these principles lead to disruptive behaviors used as a coping mechanism. These distortions are often created as defense mechanisms that help us survive trying times. However, what was once our savior has now become our tormentor. Therapy built on the underlying precepts of the 12-step club can provide powerful and effective results.