Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an addiction-recovery program that utilizes the 12-step model. Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, this original 12-step program has inspired many similarly structured treatment programs. Due to its evangelical roots and low reported success rate, AA is criticized by some, but many participants have found the program to be successful at ending addiction, and 12-step models serve as a supplement to many inpatient rehabilitation treatments.

How Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?

Alcoholics Anonymous, a completely anonymous program, does not offer professional counseling or inpatient rehab. Rather, it provides peer-based support to people who are experiencing an alcohol addiction. Participants in the program work through 12 steps using the 12 traditions of the program.

The 12 Steps

A participant in the program works through the 12 steps in order with a goal of integrating each step into his or her life. Alcoholics Anonymous places a strong emphasis on fixing fractured relationships and returning to health in all areas of life, so participants are encouraged to fully work through each step. Members may occasionally regress in steps. For example, a participant may have a relapse necessitating his or her return to Step 1. Members of 12-step groups frequently select a sponsor who will help them work through the program and upon whom they can rely in times of stress. Even after completing all 12 steps, members may continue in the program. Often members who have completed the program sponsor others who are just beginning the 12 steps.

The 12 Traditions

The 12 traditions are generalized guidelines that help disparate Alcoholics Anonymous programs provide support to members. Each group is an autonomous unit, but several organizations offer guidelines for incorporating the 12 traditions that many groups use.


Effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous remains the single most popular method for treating addiction, and thousands of people who have experienced an addiction to alcohol have successfully used the program. However, some addiction specialists have argued that the recovery rate offered by Alcoholics Anonymous is no better than that of spontaneous recovery, which frequently occurs among those addicted to alcohol. Alcoholics Anonymous provides no treatment or counseling outside of peer support, although AA groups do frequently encourage members with underlying mental health problems to seek mental health treatment before returning to AA. Many inpatient mental health facilities use 12-step groups to supplement the programs they offer to those seeking treatment for addiction.


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  2. Bakalar, N. (2006, July 25). Review Sees No Advantage in 12-Step Programs. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  3. Orange, A. (n.d.). The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment. The Effectiveness of the Twelve-Step Treatment. Retrieved from
  4. The 12 Steps. (n.d.). The 12 Steps. Retrieved from
  5. The Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. (n.d.). Alcoholics Anonymous. Retrieved July 17, 2012, from

Last Updated: 05-24-2017

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  • macy

    August 2nd, 2017 at 6:21 PM


  • Lisa

    July 11th, 2018 at 12:57 PM

    Having trouble not drinking because of pain

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