Sometimes, people following a Twelve-Step recovery program work with a counsellor who knows the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and the Promises of Twelve-Step “Anonymous” organisations.
A counsellor who can integrate counselling with your Twelve Step Recovery may be someone who has worked the 12-steps himself, is currently working through them in a recovery program, or who has received education on the Twelve Step process as part of his continued professional development programme.
But these wouldn’t necessarily be the main reasons why someone in a recovery programme would work with a twelve-step counsellor.
Why Counselling for a Twelve-Step Program.
Instead, counselling with a twelve-step-focussed counsellor is about finding a form of support away from, and in compliment with, the twelve-step programme that you’ve chosen for your recovery.
Twelve-step program sponsors are people who have worked the twelve steps themselves, and their contribute to your recovery is very important. At the same time, such people are generally not trained, qualified professional counsellors. Counselling with an experienced counsellor supports you working through your own personal experiences of a twelve-step programme (the successes and the set backs) and counselling compliments & supports your recovery as part of, but separate from, your choice of twelve-step programme.
What are Twelve-Step Organisations?
Twelve-Step Anonymous organisations are based on the philosophy that those that share common physical cravings and mental obsessions can best understand and help those that are struggling with their specific addictions. Thus, whilst members of Overeaters Anonymous will have their twelve steps (etc) based upon those of Alchoholics Anonymous, the words ‘alchoholic’ and ‘alchohol’ are replaced with ‘compulsive overeater’ and ‘food’.
Anonymous organisations include:-
- AA – Alcoholics Anonymous
- ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics
- Al-Anon/Alateen, for friends and family members of alcoholics
- CA – Cocaine Anonymous
- CLA – Clutterers Anonymous
- CMA – Crystal Meth Anonymous
- Co-Anon, for friends and family of addicts
- CoDA – Co-Dependents Anonymous, for people working to end patterns of dysfunctional relationships and develop functional and healthy relationships
- COSA – formerly Codependents of Sex Addicts
- COSLAA – CoSex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- DA – Debtors Anonymous
- EA – Emotions Anonymous, for recovery from mental and emotional illness
- FA – Families Anonymous, for relatives and friends of addicts
- FA – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous
- FAA – Food Addicts Anonymous
- GA – Gamblers Anonymous
- Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen, for friends and family members of problem gamblers
- HA – Heroin Anonymous
- MA – Marijuana Anonymous
- NA – Narcotics Anonymous
- NAIL – Neurotics Anonymous, for recovery from mental and emotional illness
- Nar-Anon, for friends and family members of addicts
- NicA – Nicotine Anonymous
- OA – Overeaters Anonymous
- OLGA – Online Gamers Anonymous
- PA – Pills Anonymous, for recovery from prescription pill addiction.
- SA – Sexaholics Anonymous
- SA – Smokers Anonymous
- SAA – Sex Addicts Anonymous
- SCA – Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
- SIA – Survivors of Incest Anonymous
- SLAA – Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- UA – Underearners Anonymous
- WA – Workaholics Anonymous
*List from Wikipedia.
This would apply to couples (working around matters of co-dependency) as well as individuals (working towards abstention)… and all other fellowships that use The Big Book & AA concepts central to their recovery.
Tradition 12 & Confidentiality in Counselling.
Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.
Matters that are discussed within a Twelve-Step meeting are to stay within the group.
It’s a creative process – but one that each person creates in a unique way.
Not in-keeping with the Twelfth Tradition: Having listened to a speaker’s story, a person might wish to discuss with a counsellor what the speaker spoke about, the speaker’s experiences with the Twelve Steps, how the speaker appeared, how annoying the speaker was, how unhelpful the speaker’s story was… etc. This approach, we might consider, could be against the twelfth tradition because the focus is upon the speaker; even keeping the speaker’s name anonymous discussing his story outside of the group might be considered a breach of his right to anonymity and his right for his story to be kept within the group (even if he doesn’t get to know about his story being taken out of the group).
In-keeping with the Twelfth Tradition: Keeping the same example in mind, a person might use counselling to discuss how the speaker’s topic effected them. They might talk about the feelings of frustration/annoyance they were feeling whilst hearing the story. The might talk about how puzzled they are that the speaker’s story appeared not to help them at all … and what matters might become revealed to the person if the counsellor and person were to be curious about focussing on the effects the person was carrying after hearing the speaker.
In the above paragraph, the counselling focusses upon the person and what’s going on for them.
Counselling & Boundaries of Twelve-Step Programmes.
For the sake of safety, anonymity and confidentiality, sensible boundaries must be discussed between counsellor and client.
For these reasons, it would be helpful if:-
- … the counsellor and client were not members of the same twelve-step fellowship.
- … the counsellor does not take on the role of a sponsor.
- … the counselling was not used simply as a “dumping-ground” for all of a person’s dissatisfaction of a Twelve-Step group (or any individual step).
- … the counsellor and client accidentally encounter each other at a Twelve Step situation (a meeting, a conference etc) what would both client and counsellor wish to do to manage that encounter … and how they would talk about the experience during their next counselling session.
It’s also helpful to bare in mind that all counsellors are different (in personality and approach to their model of therapy) and if you don’t get on with a counsellor you can choose to work with someone else.
Twelve-step Counselling Support.
An aim of seeing a counsellor during the Twelve-Step process (whether for the whole of the process, or for just a part of it) is not to replace the Twelve-Step fellowship (face-to-face group meetings, or online meetings) but to provide different forms of support that compliment the Twelve-Step process.
Similarly, the role of the counsellor is not to replace the Twelve-Step sponsor. A sponsor someone in the same Twelve-Step programme as the individual, and is more experienced on the recovery path. He/she assists the less-experienced sponsee through the program. This would be different from the counsellor may not discuss his/her own personal experience with the Twelve Step program.
- Alchoholics Anonymous – http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/
- Wikipedia’s entry on the Twelve-Step Programme – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve-step_program