The impact of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on professional treatment.
Several forces combined in the 1950s to profoundly change the way alcoholism was treated in the United States. Anderson, Bradley, and Hazelden staff combined strategies to revolutionize alcoholism treatment across the spectrum of social rehabilitation services and hospital-based care.
Prevailing psychiatric services, heavily influenced by psychoanalytic practices, were abandoned in favor of an emphasis on patient education, therapeutic group process, peer interaction, and the development of life-long support systems through AA.
The addition of the alcoholism counselors, many of whom were recovering AA members, was a key ingredient in aligning a closely identified professional with the alcoholic to foster integration of Twelve Step principles and practices in everyday life.
Dignity, respect, and hope for recovery became the cornerstone of the Minnesota/Hazelden Model. The resulting treatment model is recognized as an effective, evidence-based approach for alcohol and drug dependence. One of the strongest commendatory statements has come from the staff of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism who, in a report to the U.S. Congress, identified Twelve Step-based professional treatment as effective as other approaches and a model that “…may actually achieve more sustained abstinence” (2000, p. 448).
Clearly, AA’s impact on professional treatment cannot be underestimated. Perhaps Dan Anderson summarized it best: “Without the initial and sustaining impetus of [AA], none of our treatment efforts could have been realized”
Slaymaker VJ, Sheehan T. The impact of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on professional treatment. Recent Dev Alcohol. 2008;18:59-70.