12 Step Participation


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Students will be required to attend two (open) 12-step recovery meetings as a way of gaining first-hand experience with the way this type of mutual aid group works. Students will write a reflective paper that describes and relates this experience to the conceptual framework of substance use treatment.  More information about this assignment and the preparation suggested prior to attending 12-step meetings will be available in Engage. 

The purpose of this assignment is for you to gain familiarity with twelve-step programs; the paper is designed to document and help you process your experience.

It is important to make sure that you attend meetings that are marked as “open” meetings unless you identify as being in recovery. An open meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend. A closed meeting is only open to persons who identify as belonging to the organization. Out of respect for the recovering community, please follow these guidelines.

Although the 12-step meetings are not therapy sessions, it is best practices to keep the content of the meeting confidential in the sense that you do not share names in your posts/ writing and you do not publicly identify the events and content of the meeting. As a class, we will hold this information confidential between us.

Steps to Approach This Paper

  1. Locate and then visit two (2) twelve-step groups. See the guidelines provided to help you schedule and choose appropriate meetings. One of the meetings must be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. The other meeting can be another type of 12-step meeting (such as Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Over-Eating Anonymous, or Al-Anon etc.). Both should be “open” meetings. 
  2. Spend time reviewing the literature of 12-step mutual aid groups. Gain an understanding of what the literature says about the efficacy of these groups. Please use at least 2 research sources.
  3. Critically review the efficacy of 12-step learned about by comparing it to the findings in the research and the perspective you’ve gained from attending 12-step meetings. Do you think 12 step meetings offer best practice care to clients? What strengths does it offer? What weaknesses?

Step Two: Write a paper (of no more than 6 pages double-spaced) based on your experiences and the pertinent literature. The paper should be divided into two sections: your personal experiences and an analysis of 12-step groups based on your experiences and study of the literature.Section 1 – this section will describe experiences at the meeting 

Section One: Your Experience at the Meeting

The following outline may be useful in organizing your observations of the meetings.  This outline is only a suggestion and it is by no means required that you follow it

  • Overview
  • Name of the group
  • Time of the meeting
  • Why did you select this group?
  • Description of the members of the group (age, gender, SES, etc.)
  • Content of the Group
  • What was the routine of the meeting?
  • What was the atmosphere (quiet, noisy, respectful, tense)?
  • Process of the Group
  • Interactions between members
  • Perception of underlying dynamics
  • Personal Impressions
  • Supportive nature of the group
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the group process
  • Your feelings while preparing to attend, attending, and after the group meeting. Did these change from meeting to meeting or group to group?  Can you identify a cause for the differences in your experiences?

Section 2 – an analysis of 12-step recovery groups based on your experiences and the related mutual aid / professional literature 

  • There are several options for this section of the paper.
    • This analysis may be a comparison of the types of groups that you visited using a conceptual framework or theory to help organize your thoughts.
    • Another option is to choose to analyze your experiences using the concepts provided by a conceptual framework or theory that you are already familiar with, like CBT
    • A third option is to organize your paper around one of the controversies related to 12-step groups that you find in the literature, for example Harm Reduction vs. total abstinence approach
  • Any theory or conceptual framework may be utilized in this paper, it is important that you provide well-reasoned arguments for using the particular structure that you choose along with evidence to support your conceptual framework.
  • Below is a very brief suggested outline for this section of the paper. Your theory or the literature-based controversy will provide the structure of your paper
    • Explanation of the theory, conceptual framework or controversy; including any specific concepts or organizing principles. Be very clear and explicit
    • Explanation of the organizing principle’s applicability to the topic. Why did you choose this concept?  How does it apply to the topic?
    • Analysis of the groups by the concepts in the organizing principle
    • Implications for Social Work practice


  • APA is necessary for this paper, although you can use first-person language.
  • Use at least 2 academic references; you may need more than 2 references and should use enough references to support your academic work. These references should come from peer reviewed journals and will likely be found in the university library system.
  • 4 and 6 pages of written text. The professor will stop grading after 6 pages of written text.
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