Is a 12-Step Group in Residential Treatment the Same as AA?

Often, patients are introduced to the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous during residential inpatient treatment.  As a part of the overall program designed to jump start recovery, patients are required to attend meetings.  Research shows that alcoholics or addicts who attend meetings experience recovery rates approximately two times as effective as those who do not attend meetings.

Group Therapy Models You Find in Residential Treatment Centers

There are essentially five different therapy models for groups in addiction treatment centers.  These groups each serve a specific purpose in treating the whole individual.  Alcoholism and addiction affect the body, mind and spirit.  The following groups offer help and support to these different facets of a person:

  • Psychoeducational groups
  • Skills Development groups
  • Cognitive Therapy groups
  • Interpersonal Process groups
  • Support Groups

AA as a Support Group

Most residential treatment centers apply AA and NA meetings as a support group modality.  Given that the ultimate objective of AA and NA members is to help others struggling with addiction, many facilities host 12-step meetings by offering a venue for groups to convene.  AA and NA members visit treatment facilities weekly to share experiences and carry the message of recovery.

To find a 12-step meeting near you, call our toll-free helpline at  800-781-0748 (Who Answers?) .

The White Van

12-Step Group in Residential Treatment

Attending AA while in treatment can help you feel supported and understood.

Many treatment centers also employ the practice of taking patients to local AA or NA meetings.  Patients usually board a nondescript 16- passenger white van to travel to local clubhouse, churches or community centers.  12-step meetings are held throughout the community at a variety of locations and times.  Sometimes treatment centers send patients to meetings in the evening after the days’ therapy events.

Are These 12-Step Groups the Same as AA?

The 12-steps remain unchanging regardless of where a person is located.  Some patients choose to attend meetings hosted by their rehab center upon completion of their program.  Making connections with AA and NA members with solid recovery provides a network of support that is available after the completion of residential treatment.  This support is critical to lasting recovery.

Benefits of 12-Step Group Introduction in Residential Treatment

There are many benefits to exposing persons with alcohol and/or substance use disorders to 12-step programs in residential treatment.  Considering recovery is viewed as a life-long process, patients may view meetings differently.  Here are some of the benefits of meetings in rehab:

  • Opportunity to listen to experiences of others with substance abuse issues
  • Introduction to the 12 steps
  • Meeting others in recovery for ongoing support later
  • Affirming concepts learned in therapy sessions

Benefits of 12-Step Groups after Residential Treatment

Recovery is difficult.  The cycle of addiction is difficult to break.  Many consider alcoholism and drug addiction a disease like diabetes or hypertension.  Constant treatment and monitoring are necessary to maintain healthy success.  The following are benefits of meetings after rehab:

  • Finding a sponsor
  • Working the steps and sharing those experiences with others
  • Support for the rough days that will come
  • Joining a group of like-minded people on the same journey

Finding the Right Group for You

Even though the 12 steps are the same, groups of people are very different.  Each group contains different people who bring a variety of personalities to the table.  Sometimes a person can walk into a room and feel a specific energy in the group.  It is important not to judge every 12-step group based solely on experiences from residential treatment.  After completing rehab, find a meeting list and venture out to different groups.  Find people whose stories resonate in order to continue a supportive recovery path.

Call  800-781-0748 (Who Answers?) to find a meeting in your area or to learn more about 12-step programs. 

Strength in Numbers: How 12 Step Meetings Help You Build the Support Network You Need for Recovery


Alcoholics Anonymous (2016). Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Retrieved on December 28, 2016 from:

Kaskutas, L. (2009). Alcoholics anonymous effectiveness: Faith meets science. Journal of Addictive Diseases. 28(2): 145-157.

Narcotics Anonymous.  (1992). An Introductory Guide to Narcotics Anonymous.  Retrieved from:

NCBI (2011). 2 types of groups commonly used in substance abuse treatment. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from:

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