Fascinating article on the history of AA and some research on why, even though it doesn’t usually work, it does occasionally work.
Here’s an interesting social-cybernetic insight:
To begin with, there is evidence that a big part of AA’s effectiveness may have nothing to do with the actual steps. It may derive from something more fundamental: the power of the group. Psychologists have long known that one of the best ways to change human behavior is to gather people with similar problems into groups, rather than treat them individually. The first to note this phenomenon was Joseph Pratt, a Boston physician who started organizing weekly meetings of tubercular patients in 1905. These groups were intended to teach members better health habits, but Pratt quickly realized they were also effective at lifting emotional spirits, by giving patients the chance to share their tales of hardship. (“In a common disease, they have a bond,” he would later observe.) More than 70 years later, after a review of nearly 200 articles on group therapy, a pair of Stanford University researchers pinpointed why the approach works so well: “Members find the group to be a compelling emotional experience; they develop close bonds with the other members and are deeply influenced by their acceptance and feedback.”
Wired: Secret Of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works
The article covers AA’s effectiveness briefly, and finds that studies of its effectiveness are inconclusive. I’ve posted before about one study that found 12-step programs no more or less effective than other treatment programs.
I have absolutely zero problem with people using religion or whatever else works to improve their lives and get over the devastating effects of addiction, court mandated 12 step programs are clearly a breach of the seperation of church and state. (And There’s evidence to suggest that mandating treatment doesn’t work anyway.)
See also John Shirley’s “The Forgotten Solution.”
Another thought: The EsoZone Protocol is similar to the structure of AA.