Why 12-Step Programs Help People with Mental-Health Issues

by Mike Veny Patient Advocate

Whenever we hear about people battling mental-health issues, we invariably hear about medication, counseling, and a variety of other options. Most of these discussions rarely, if ever, mention the very real importance of 12-step programs.

One of the reasons is that people associate 12-step programs with substance abuse and other addictions. But professionals are beginning to understand that substance abuse and addiction have a mental-health component, and vice versa.

Unfortunately, it has become common to hear that 12-step programs don’t work. This false statement not only pushes people away from this option, but also works to hide the programs from open view. The key to success with a 12-step program starts with the desire to succeed and taking that first step.

Taking the first step and dedicating yourself to your recovery is vital to your success

According to Rehabs.com, “The most frequently promoted organizations that can assist you in recovery maintenance are, by far, 12-step programs. The majority of treatment facilities will either incorporate a 12-step model into their program or endorse a 12-step program for aftercare. There is a reason why.”

Many people are left wondering what they can do to move forward once they leave a treatment facility or have reached the end of an emergency program. This is where 12-step programs come into play and hold a vital place in the recovery process.

One of the things people learn during in-patient treatment is that they must be dedicated to their recovery to successfully move forward. Upon discharge, they often find themselves handed a basic list of programs to check into for further assistance, but no real explanation for why these programs matter. This is where many people backslide, rather than moving forward.

Every completed step is another step towards recovery

“Even though there is a lack of public statistics that deal with 12-step programs, any organization is only going to be as helpful as the effort you put into it,” states Rehabs.com on their website. “No program will do everything for you. But what 12-step programs do offer is important: support, acceptance, knowledge, compassion, and a common goal of sobriety. These are the things that will help you in your recovery.”

Success does not come overnight. It requires dedication, perseverance, and a great support system. To be truly successful, people must work their way past various obstacles, learning to manage their mental health effectively. A 12-step program is designed to provide a safe way to learn those skills and gain confidence with each step.

Once enrolled, people find themselves immersed in a supportive environment, surrounded by others who are battling their own demons. Often, they find ways to help each other with their recovery, which is an important part of building a solid foundation for their future.

You may be wondering how this could possibly help. That is natural, because many people have trouble seeing how helping others can help them as well.

Every step will have its own unique difficulties to overcome

One issue that is often mentioned by those working on their success is the tendency to get stuck on the last step. They mention spending time wondering what they could have done differently, thus creating their own roadblocks. It takes a great support system to point out these moments of insecurity and help others get past them.

One great way to work through each step is to learn to use your perceived weaknesses as strengths. Sound impossible? Of course it does. However, it can be done and a 12-step program can help you learn the process of doing it. One of the most important lessons is learning to act immediately where you would normally hesitate. Then you can feel the satisfaction of overcoming that obstacle.

Remembering to feed your spirit is important to your success, too!

People tend to forget they are more than the sum of their problems. When they complete each step of their program, they need to take a moment to celebrate that moment of success. Also, they need to be happy for everyone else in the program who has completed a step. Togetherness helps boost everyone, making the entire group move forward as a whole. The group feeling of achievement is one of the biggest reasons people find success!

A 12-step program provides far more than just a meeting place. It provides a support system that helps to reshape the path and remove the walls that stand in the way of recovery. The solid foundation it helps build is essential to finding peace in the future. Rebuilding takes time, but with an entire group of people working together, everyone can achieve success.

Once the program is complete, move forward in a positive light

Even after the 12-step program has been completed, it is important to remain positive, stay in contact with the support system that has been created, and keep practicing those steps. Every day a challenge can, and likely will, arise that makes us question ourselves. This is why it is vital that we remember those successful moments, our support system, and the fact that we can get past any obstacle if we set ourselves on the path to do so.

Finally, we must remember to take care of ourselves and others, to keep feeding our spirits and the spirits of others. And most important, to find outlets for our fears. Once we’ve achieved success, the road gets easier, but it doesn’t simply end. By working our own program every day, we can find the peace we seek and continue to find success in our everyday lives.

Mike Veny
Meet Our Writer
Mike Veny

Mental health speaker and best-selling author Mike Veny delivers engaging presentations with raw energy and a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. He shares how he went from struggling with mental health challenges to being a thought leader that travels the globe telling his story to help transform stigma. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, corporate drumming event facilitator, author, and luggage enthusiast. Seriously, you’d completely get it if you did all the traveling he did! Mike is the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, he is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry for his work as a patient advocate.