Twelve-step programs are free-to-join, local support groups that help individuals confront and control their addictive behaviors. These groups have proven to be successful and have assisted millions of people in making positive and lasting changes in their lives, according to Addictions and Recovery.
The first, and best known, program for addressing addiction is Alcoholics Anonymous. It was founded in 1938 by Bill Wilson, who developed a list of 12 guiding steps to help people recognize and recover from alcohol dependency, says Psych Central.
The principles of Alcoholics Anonymous have a strongly spiritual base, with emphasis on fellowship, personal responsibility and living happily without the need for alcohol. "Working the 12 steps" is a structured, voluntary process that individuals follow, while reflecting, learning and sharing, in a non-judgmental environment. Narcotics Anonymous uses a program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, while other 12-step groups focus on an individual's power to change, rather than using a spiritual model, according to Addictions and Recovery.
There are also support groups for problem behaviors like gambling, shopping and other addictions, notes Recovery. The effectiveness that these 12-step groups provide lies in their structured program and the mutual understanding and support that the members bring to the meetings.