12 Steps in Holistic Living

12 Steps include a variety of applicable principles that can help patients modify negative behaviors, prevent relapse, and maintain lasting recovery. In a study by Litchke et al., (2021) exploring changes in emotional well-being, they combined recreation therapy, complementary physical and creative arts activities, followed by a 12-step Christian meeting, twice a week for 2 hours over a 6-week period. Results revealed a 27% reduction in anxiety and a decrease in perceived stress of 24%. Negative mood symptoms also reduced by 13%.

The 12 Steps are an example of a holistic (integrated) approach at its best– adaptable to a wide range of maladies, but in its essence, about the way we live now. They can be integrated into therapy (CBT, MBSR, DBT), however, they are not evidenced based practices. The effectiveness in holistic adaptations focus on mind, body, and spirit and the need for the individual to assume responsibility for the maintenance of health and wellness, rather than assigning it solely to a professional (McMillin, 2015).

A study by Bacon (CalSouthern, 2013) found the twelve steps are complementary from a biological, psychological, and behavioral (social) perspective on addiction. They promote abstinence (containment) and support (fellowship). The first obstacle is abstinence and containing the “allergy” (alcohol, substance) then treatment (counseling) The question becomes, “How do you prevent (sustain) relapse?” Anxiety, depression, avoidance are consequences of withdrawal (and active use).

As a counselor (BHP, PC) from an integrated approach, is the patient heading in the direction of healing, if relapse occurs? It is here where a 12-spiritual program addresses emotional growth alongside behavior change.

The Bacon study (CalSouthern, 2013) recommends for counselors to attend 6-12 meetings a year to familiarize and genuinely partner with the patient in understanding what challenges they are facing, like the expression, “working together where the right hand truly knows what the left hand is doing and vice versa.”


CalSouthern Psychology. (2013, April 12). Integrating therapy with 12-step programs by Dr. Bob Weathers. You Tube. https://yout.be/fHgV780SjFE

Litchke, L. G., Quinn, B., Turner, K., & Trapp, K. (2021). Therapeutic recreation activities combined with a 12-step faith-based program for adults experiencing addiction, mental health, and Homelessness: A case study. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 40(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/07347324.2021.1981181

McMillin, S. C. (2015). 12 step is holistic: Bridging the gap between treatment and recovery. Treatment Recovery Systems. https://treatmentandrecoverysystems.com/12-step-is-holistic/


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