Anti 12-step bias? What’s really going on?

Perhaps I'm the Wrong Tool by Tall Jerome
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” (art by Tall Jerome)

DJ Mac has a great guest post from a professional sharing his first exposure to 12 step recovery.

I was astonished the first time I was taken to an NA meeting. I mean, really gobsmacked – you could have knocked me off my seat. The room was full of recovering heroin addicts; something I’d never seen in my 20 years (at that time) in practice. I was both excited – at the possibilities – and ashamed – at the fact that I didn’t know such places existed.

Wonderful, right? What happened when he shared this exerience with colleagues?

When I began to talk mutual aid with colleagues in practice and with our local addiction psychiatrist, I observed a peculiar thing in many people – a resistance to the concept of self-help at best and downright hostility at worst.

. . .“it doesn’t work for everyone” was like a refrain ten years ago. I began to have to bite my lip when I heard it because it was such a common response and I started to find it amusing. Paracetamol [Tylenol to American visitors] doesn’t work for everyone who has a headache, but we try it and see if it works, because it works for quite a lot of people. I don’t get the response “it doesn’t work for everyone” when I talk about paracetamol. Paracetamol doesn’t get folk arguing or getting emotional.

So, what’s really going on?

I think part of it is feeling threatened by a process – recovery – that takes place out of the consulting room or clinic. It is non-professional, but instead of being a bad thing, this is actually perfectly healthy and the way it should be. Most of us go into the caring professions to help people, but some of us are threatened at our core when our patients need less of our help than they once did. Those of us who are like this are not very likely to have insight to see it. I think that’s part of what’s going on in some people when mutual aid comes up. It disempowers the professional.

Read the whole post here.

2 thoughts on “Anti 12-step bias? What’s really going on?

  1. I have never met a drunk who went to professional therapy hoping to get better. They do it so their boss won’t fire them or their wife won’t leave them. They do it because a judge ordered them to.
    I think it is a shame that no one sees counseling as a means to get better.
    The most frightening thing is that people developing problems generally turn to people they know who have recovered for guidance and the recommendations they are giving generally says “don’t waste the money”.


  2. I am struck by the inconsistency of the healthcare professional’s resistance to the 12 Step Program’s contribution to treating addiction while often encouraging patients to attend support groups for a number of other medical conditions e.g. cancer patients, fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes, etc.. While I agree in part with the author’s point I believe there are other things in play here as well.


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