12-Step Programs For Addiction Treatment

12-step meetings bring together those who want to recover from one or multiple addictions. Meetings provide a free, safe, and comfortable environment to share stories of strength, hope, and recovery from substance abuse and behavioral addiction.

Many recreationally use legal substances to unwind and socialize. Some take prescription medications to treat physical injuries or mental health disorders.

By drinking responsibly and following doctor’s’ instructions, it is possible to avoid addiction.

However, some people have a hard time controlling drinking or using substances, possibly due to genetic predisposition to addiction, mental health challenges, or other important factors.

These people may be more susceptible to substance use disorder (SUD), a mental health disorder that may require substance abuse therapy techniques to achieve recovery.

12-step group meetings are one of many addiction treatment approaches. These meetings are for people overcoming addictive behaviors by sharing their experiences.

Read on to learn more about 12-step group meetings and how they help people find long-lasting sobriety.

What Are 12-Step Meetings?

The core of 12-step meetings is that its members find strength, hope, and recovery from addictive behavior by sharing their past, helping newcomers, and being of service to meetings.

Perhaps the biggest concept of 12-step groups is that by finding a higher power (whether religious or tangible, such as a rehab program or support group), members have a spiritual foundation to fall back on, instead of resorting to addictions.

Meetings and groups are free to attend and join. Members determine their level of participation and aren’t upheld to any strict rules that an inpatient drug treatment program may require.

12-step group meetings are run in churches, houses, parks, and clubhouses. They’re self-supported through member donations and the selling of recovery literature.

Some meetings can be very intimate, while others are large. Organizations such as Hospitals and Institutions (H&I) bring meetings to jails, rehab centers, and hospitals.

What Does A Typical 12-Step Meeting Look Like?

Most meetings follow a similar beginning and ending structure and last an hour to an hour and a half. There are several meeting formats that 12-step groups may follow.

Some types of meeting formats are:

  • Speaker format: One member, usually with many years in recovery, shares their story intimately and in-depth.
  • Book study: Members read recovery-approved literature and share their perspectives about topics the reading brought up.
  • Participation: This involves a more open format. A “leader” will call on members at random or in order of seating and invite attendees to share for three to five minutes.
  • Step Meetings: A group dives into one specific step out of the 12 steps, learning how to apply the spiritual principles of that step to their recovery.

For the most part, a meeting will run like this:


At the start of a meeting, the group says the serenity prayer together.

Then, the 12 steps and 12 traditions of the program are read, followed by welcoming any newcomers in their first 29 days or less of sobriety.

Those celebrating a month, 60 days, 90 days, six months, nine months, a year, or several years of sobriety may take a chip and a hug from the chip giver.

Visitors from out of town are also acknowledged and made welcome. Attendants may go around the room and introduce themselves by sharing their names, followed by what their addiction is.


After introductions, the group will participate in listening, sharing, or reading about someone’s experience in recovery.

New participants or those who simply wish to listen do not have to talk if they don’t want to. It’s best to look for similarities in this part of the meeting, instead of differences.

There is typically a small break to pass a collection basket around.


With five to 10 minutes left of the meeting, sharing will stop.

There may be time for someone with a “burning desire” to share. A burning desire means that unless this person shares, they may act out in an unhealthy and harmful way.

Meeting updates and announcements are read, followed by either the serenity prayer, the lord’s prayer, or another prayer the group has collectively agreed upon to close the meeting.

Finding A Sponsor

Many consider the time before and after the meeting just as crucial as the actual meeting. This is a time when newcomers can meet other newcomers and longstanding members.

This is also a time when members can connect with a sponsor. A sponsor is someone with a working knowledge of program literature, has completed the steps, and has at least a year of sobriety.

Sponsors guide members with less sobriety time through the 12 steps. The steps are a group of spiritual, reflective, and proactive actions one takes to find freedom from past behaviors.

Once completed, this person may start sponsoring others. The working of the steps being passed along to newcomers is one of the cornerstones of most 12-step groups.

Different Types Of 12-Step Meetings

With the advent of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 12-step group, many other addictive behavior groups surfaced. Most of these groups follow AA’s 12-step principles.

Some people have developed multiple addiction disorders. Attending more than one program is quite common.

Some different types of 12-step meetings are:

Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts

At Spring Hill Recovery Center, we offer several treatment options that incorporate the 12-step model of addiction recovery.

These include inpatient rehab and outpatient programs, which are supported by addiction therapy techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Reach out to a specialist today to learn more about our rehab center in Ashby, Massachusetts.

  1. National Institute On Drug Abuse — 12-Step Facilitation Therapy (Alcohol, Stimulants, Opiates) https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies/12-step
  2. National Library Of Medicine — 12-Step Interventions And Mutual Support Programs For Substance Use Disorders: An Overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753023/'
  3. Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration — Pathways To Healing And Recovery: Perspectives From Individuals With Histories Of Alcohol And Other Drug Problems https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/recovery_pathways_report.pdf

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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