What Is a 12 Step Integration Program?

Learn everything you need to know about the 12 step program and its success in treating addiction.

What Is a 12 Step Program?

12 step programs are mutual aid programs set up to help recover from various disorders, such as alcohol, narcotics, and gambling addiction. This type of program also exists for mental and emotional illnesses. People who suffer from substance use disorder meet in these programs to share their challenges.

12 Step Program

History and Origin of the 12 Step Program

The 12 step program started in 1935 with just two participants, Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. After a long spell of alcohol addiction, Smith and Wilson decided to formulate their own strategy to recover from the disorder effectively. Eventually, they designed a support system to defeat alcohol dependency and published their findings and work in the “Big Book.” 1

Since then, the program has grown in popularity and is deemed an effective treatment method almost 90 years later. As the program received widespread acknowledgment, many groups began to spring up. Presently there are hundreds of thousands of active 12 step integration programs worldwide.

What Are the 12 Steps in the 12 Step Program?

The success of the first 12 step integration program was the mutual dependency between Smith and Wilson. In the “Big Book,” they distinguished and explained twelve steps that are vital to recovery:

  1. Admitting Powerlessness 
  2. Finding Hope
  3. Surrender
  4. Soul Searching
  5. Integrity
  6. Acceptance
  7. Humility
  8. Willingness 
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Maintenance
  11. Making Contact and Mediation
  12. Helping Others

What Is the Core of Each Step?

In order to effectively integrate the 12 step integration program into one’s personal recovery journey, it is important to know the principle of each guiding step. Once that foundation is established, people can start to experience the benefits of healing. The mission of each step, as stated by the founders of the program, is as follows: 1

Step One: Admitting Powerlessness

“We admit we are powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Step Two: Finding Hope

“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step Three: Surrender

“We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

Step Four: Soul Searching

“We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

Step Five: Integrity

“We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Step Six: Acceptance

“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

Step Seven: Humility

“We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Step Eight: Willingness

“We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

Step Nine: Forgiveness

“We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so will injure them or others.”

Step Ten: Maintenance

“We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Step Eleven: Making Contact and Mediation

“We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Step Twelve: Step Helping Others

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

12 Step Program Features

To fulfill its aim and maintain uniformity, 12 step recovery programs must work through a defined structure and strength. Thus, every 12 step integration program includes certain consistent elements:

A Group Setting

The power of this program is our solid community. The 12 step addiction program is structured for participants to benefit from one another. In group settings, every participant is reminded that they are not alone. Members draw courage from other members and are more motivated to recover from substance use disorder.  


The 12 step addiction program relies on continuity. Therefore, every generation of 12 steppers helps raise another. To achieve this objective, sponsors organize and anchor 12 step meetings.

Only successful participants of the 12-step addiction program can become sponsors. To qualify as a sponsor, one must be sober for at least one year. The journey of a sponsor into sobriety should make them more approachable, friendly, and empathetic to 12 steppers.

12 Step Program Effectiveness and Alternatives

Over the years, there has been widespread debate over the efficacy of 12 step support groups. Is it a wonder-working system for attaining sobriety or just a waste of time? Let’s find out.

How Effective Is a 12 Step Program?

Many have sought out the answer to this question. As it turned out, most of the research done so far has acknowledged the program’s effectiveness in combating substance use disorder. Additionally, studies discovered that 12 step integration programs reduce health care costs for youths by 4.7%.2

12 Step Program Success Rate

The success rates of 12 step rehab programs have been subjects of debate; however, there is compelling proof highlighting the level of effectiveness. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that in an eight-year follow-up, 49% of individuals who attended Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remained abstinent. 3

Alternatives to 12 Step Programs

There are alternatives to the 12 integration step program. While the AA 12 step program is not based on or requires members to belong to any religion, they have a spiritual dimension.

Alternative programs have surfaced whose doctrines have little or no spiritual basis. The principles of some of these alternatives point members to their inner strength instead of external courage. These alternatives include:

  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S)
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery 
  • Experiential Therapies
  • Evidence-Based and Science-Based Treatments 
  • Holistic Therapies 
  • Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)
  • Women for Sobriety 
  • The Calix Society 
  • Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS) 
12 Step Program

12 Step Program at Essence Healthcare

Over the years, Alcohol Anonymous has served as a symbol of hope to those with substance abuse disorders. For this reason, we at Essence Healthcare would love to introduce you to our AA 12 step integration program. As long as you put your mind to it, you can rest assured that you’re on the right path to a lifetime of sobriety.

Other Addiction Treatment Services

How ready are you to recover from addiction? We are equally eager to see you become another success story. At Essence Healing Center, you get the complete package of addiction treatment. Our AA 12 step programs finish up our mainstream addiction treatment services, such as:

Begin Healing at Essence Healthcare

We will guide you through what it takes to achieve total recovery. In addition, we will advise you on what treatment procedures are best for you. Contact Essence Healthcare now to book an appointment. Start your journey to complete recovery today!

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.