Maybe you have been to AA. Most of our patients have. Most of our patients tell us that AA and 12 stop programs in general simply do not work for them. AA is confrontational, potentially leading to dishonesty and “hiding” of actual drinking behavior, and leads to low self-esteem. Furthermore it is usually offered by former substance abusers, not licensed therapists.
Does AA work? Studies on the effectiveness of AA are practically non-existent. However, a meta-analysis of all available controlled alcoholism treatment studies in 1995 found that alcoholism treatments were clearly differentiated in terms of their demonstrated effectiveness, with brief interventions ranked first, followed by social skills training and motivational enhancement. Ranked at the low end were confrontation and general alcoholism therapy. The two tests of AA found it inferior to other treatments or even no treatment but were not sufficient to rank AA reliably.
Many people who go to AA tell us that it is not an honesty driven program and that they leave meetings feeling unfulfilled. Many patients end up at AA because there are few other options available. Perhaps it is unrealistic to never drink alcohol again? Many people feel that alcohol still “controls my life” when they can never drink again.
The bottom line: AA is not a reliable method to lead to sobriety and AA certainly does not condone responsible drinking behavior.