El escudo de ChiapasThe Role of AA Sponsors: A Pilot Study

Aims: The aim of this study was to explore the roles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsors and to describe the characteristics of a sample of sponsors.

Methods: Twenty-eight AA sponsors, recruited using a purposive sampling method, were administered an unstructured qualitative interview and standardized questionnaires. The measurements included: a content analysis of sponsors’ responses; Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire—Community version (SADQ-C) and Alcoholics Anonymous Affiliation Scale (AAAS).

Results: Sample characteristics were as follows:

  • the median length of AA attendance was 9.5 years (range 5–28);
  • the median length of sobriety was 11 years (range 4.5–28);
  • the median number of sponsees per sponsor was 1 but there was a wide range (0–17, interquartile range 3.75); and
  • the sponsors were highly affiliated to AA (median AAAS score 8.75, range 5.5–8.75, maximum possible score 9).

Past alcohol dependence scores were surprisingly low:

  • 5 (18%) sponsors had mild,
  • 14 (50%) moderate and
  • 9 (32%) severe dependence according to the SADQ-C (median 26.5, range 11–56).

Sponsorship roles were as follows:

16 roles were identified through the initial content analysis. These were distilled into three super-ordinate roles through a thematic analysis:

  • encouraging sponsees to work the programme of AA (doing the 12 steps and engaging in AA activity);
  • support (regular contact, emotional support and practical support); and
  • carrying the message of AA (sharing sponsor’s personal experience of recovery with sponsees).

Conclusions: The roles identified broadly corresponded with the AA literature delineating the duties of a sponsor. This non-random sample of sponsors was highly engaged in AA activity but only had a past history of moderate alcohol dependence.

Research report; Paul J. P. Whelan, E. Jane Marshall, David M. Ball and Keith Humphreys. The Role of AA Sponsors: A Pilot Study. Alcohol and Alcoholism March 18, 2009

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