What Researchers Tell Us About Alcoholics Anonymous
There exists a number of researchers who consistently attempt to find solid evidence of the treatment efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous or AA. AA has been in existence for many years and millions of individuals have benefited from attending AA meetings. Still, researchers wish to know more about how AA changes people over the long term. The interesting thing is even though researchers want to know more, they see AA as necessary to treating alcohol abuse. They even show a great deal of respect for those who regularly attend AA meetings.
AA meetings are based on the concept of anonymity, which does make it difficult for researchers to understand how AA really works. There are no files related to statistics on who attends AA meetings and for how long. AA bases success on the stories of recovery from members who attend meetings; not research.
AA members are not very welcoming to outsiders who wish to ask questions of members as they see it as an invasion of privacy. Many simply would refuse to speak with a researcher during a meeting. To the members, they are not statistics, but people who need help in recovering from a debilitating problem.
What the researchers do tell us about AA, is that simply it works. The mechanisms behind why it works is open to discussion. AA does encourage group participation in the form of reading the Big Book during meetings or sharing stories of recovery. Members are encouraged to work the 12 steps to recovery and to challenge thoughts related to rationalizing drinking behavior or staying away from the people, places, and things that might get one into trouble. AA also provides members a way to connect to a higher power that provides hope and healing.
There is a true fellowship that occurs in AA meetings that outsiders might not understand, let alone researchers. AA members communicate through an understanding that is not visible to the non-AA member. AA allows for support networks to be established and a safe place to vent frustrations and stories of success related to recovery.
Researchers have discovered that a support network, including regular attendance at AA meetings, is critical in maintaining abstinence. Research also shows us that two-thirds of people in treatment attend AA meetings and for those who attend meetings at least once per week, are more likely to complete other forms of treatment such as individual or group therapy.
Regardless of how it works, those who attend AA meetings know it does work, if they work it!