Since its founding in 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has become one of the nation's best-known treatment programs for alcohol addiction. For those who join, AA offers a support system for overcoming alcoholism, which is defined as mental and physical dependence on alcohol. AA's model focuses on encouraging members to realize how their drinking hurts themselves and the people around them. Other benefits include the opportunity to discuss sobriety issues in a confidential, low-key setting that promotes personal responsibility and improved coping skills.
Simplicity of Approach
The essence of AA's approach is the 12 step program to abstinence. An alcoholic who follows the steps begins with the admission of an inability to control his drinking, a readiness to review his own shortcomings, and a willingness to make amends toward others whom he's hurt by his actions. Instead of promising to stop forever, alcoholics commit to living one day at a time without drinking. Nothing is required for membership beyond a commitment to stop drinking.
Support and Reinforcement
Alcoholics Anonymous provides a worldwide fellowship for alcoholics to help each other stay sober, the "Alcoholics Anonymous: A Brief Guide to Alcoholics Anonymous," an AA publication, states. The major venue for these efforts are local AA chapter meetings, where members can discuss their struggles with alcohol and reinforce each others' resolve to quit. According to a study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Addiction Medicine, the biggest benefits from involvement in AA programs are the chance to associate with others in recovery, who can support positive coping strategies and behaviors.
Adaptability of Approach
AA's approach is built around the reinforcement and modeling of behaviors that help its members stop drinking, which they accomplish through the application of various techniques, such as goal setting, the analysis of drinking situations and alternate coping strategies, says the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. This approach has been adapted since the mid-1980s for use in many specialized treatment settings, such as community centers, primary care facilities and schools, which can be tailored to the circumstances of the community or patient who needs help.
Resource for Courts
AA programs offer a resource to ease overburdened court dockets, while giving judges a role to reshape offenders' lives, according to the organization's spring 2010 "Newsletter for Professionals." The aim is to break the "revolving door" of offenders who pass through the system again and again. Instead of clogging court time and resources, defendants get the chance to become sober with the help of AA's distinctive support structure. As the newsletter indicates, the stability and continuity of AA's approach is growing in popularity with jurisdictions that have created special drug and alcohol courts to hold offenders accountable.