What Role Do 12-Step Programs Play During and After Drug Rehab?

The 12-step program: It’s a term that’s been used in drug rehab for decades, and remains an active element of the recovery path for many people working through addiction. At their core, 12-step programs for drug rehab allow people to share openly but confidentially the details of their struggle and find support together. As a first step, people must admit they have lost their control over their addiction and that they need help to move forward. Other core beliefs include that through the act of reaching out to serve someone else who is working through their own drug rehab, a person becomes stronger in their own recovery. The entrance of help from a 12-step group can appear from the beginning of the rehab program, or can be introduced as a maintenance step when the program participant has nearly concluded their professional drug rehab program. Some research studies indicate that people who engage in a 12-step program have higher levels of success, and more long-term success, than those who work through recovery without the support of a group. Attendance is not mandatory at 12-step groups, but many experts agree that making attendance a prioritized, regular part of recovery encourages the participant to maintain an addiction-free lifestyle and demonstrates to family and friends that their commitment to recovery is serious. Others undergoing drug rehab programs may find it helpful to begin a 12-step program at the onset of professional treatment, due to the more informal nature of the programs. Group leaders may choose to invite a guest presenter to the meeting, which is typically someone who is maintaining their own recovery, but there is no requirement to know the terminology associated with drug and alcohol rehab or to know any formal treatment strategies. Twelve-step programs can serve as a compliment to individual therapy and allow a participant to form a peer network of people who are undergoing a similar journey. Members and group leaders of 12-step programs are asked to retain the original philosophies of the groups, now more than 65 years old – including that the programs are not to serve as treatment options, but have a focus on helping participants and their families learn as much as possible about the addiction and recovery process and to build a lasting peer support network. Through these approaches, 12-step programs have also been linked with reducing the risk for relapse because participants learn new tools for coping with triggers and life stressors. When 12-step programs are included in a person’s post-treatment plan, it is important that they select the right group that matches their recovery needs and their personality. Most cities offer 12-step programs for drug or alcohol addiction recovery in several locations throughout the week, and some participants attend multiple meetings every week.

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