Close To Home
PBS Online
Thirteen / WNET
Moyers on Addiction
Return to Homepage Menu: Treatment Menu: Kinds of Treatment Open Sitemap

Self- and Mutual-Help Groups
For further information, visit our Resources section.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Other 12-Step Groups: The grandfather of the 12-Step movement, AA began in 1935 with the meeting of two alcoholics. AA is the most popular mutual help recovery group in the U.S. and has a worldwide presence. Designed to help the alcoholic stay sober "one day at a time," it is a non-religious but highly spiritual mutual-help program; it requires of its members only "a desire to stop drinking." Participants attend regular, free group meetings for support and often take on another recovering alcoholic with longer sobriety as a "sponsor," or advisor and confidante. AA's program is based on the now-famous 12 Steps, which include admitting one is "powerless" over alcohol, becoming willing to turn one's life over to the God of one's choice, taking a "moral inventory" of oneself, making amends to people who have been harmed by one's addiction, and reaching out to other alcoholics. Other 12-Step programs based on the AA model include Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Pills Anonymous, and Marijuana Addicts Anonymous. Local groups can be found in telephone directories.


Profile: Kicking the Smoking Habit

AA slogans

AA slogans.

An AA meeting room

An AA meeting room.

S.M.A.R.T. Recovery: This is an abstinence-oriented recovery program without the spiritual components of AA and the other 12-Step groups. It rejects the idea that addicts have no control or power over their condition, and therefore does not recommend the reliance on a Higher Power that AA does. Based on many of the same principles as cognitive therapy, it holds that addicted people are competent to make a choice not to drink or do drugs. Thus, members are urged to build on their own strengths and look within themselves to stop destructive behaviors.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety: Another alcohol and drug addiction recovery program that espouses abstinence but does not have the spiritual component of the 12-Step programs. Like AA, it uses the "one day at a time" approach to recovery. Many SOS members also attend AA. Its precepts include acknowledging one's addiction, accepting each day that drinking or using are off limits, and making sobriety a priority.

Rational Recovery: An abstinence-based, non-12-Step recovery program with no religious or spiritual content. RR provides orientation in Addictive Voice Recognition Technique, which it developed, and focuses on individual responsibility, personal strengths, and complete recovery. Interested people can also refer to founder Jack Trimpey's book RATIONAL RECOVERY: THE NEW CURE FOR SUBSTANCE ADDICTION (New York: Pocket Books, 1996). Free self-help groups available in the U.S. and abroad.

Women for Sobriety: A non-12-Step-based recovery program for women, which holds that women alcoholics and addicts often have special needs and issues not addressed by recovery programs founded largely by and for men. The program strives to build self-esteem as well as help women recover from addiction. Members meet in small groups.

Religious Groups: Many religious organizations offer recovery support within their own spiritual traditions. Some examples are the Salvation Army, the Nation of Islam, and Jewish Alcoholics and Addicts (JACS). Many local churches have their own programs.

Moderation Management: Started in 1995, this is a program for "problem drinkers" who are trying to control/reduce their drinking. It is not intended for heavily alcohol-dependent patients or those who have already achieved abstinence. Those interested may also get support from founder Audrey Kishline's book, MODERATE DRINKING (New York: Random House, 1994).

-- Janet Firshein

-- Additional reporting by Maia Szalavitz

Return to Top

Self- and Mutual-Help Groups | Formal Treatment | Medications

Kinds of Treatment




PBS Online | Thirteen Online