what is the 12 step model

Recovery’s Dirty Little Secret: What Is The 12 Step Model & Its Relationship To Mental Health?

What is the 12 step model? Does it have pros and cons in addiction recovery? Find out here.

Mile High Recovery Center: Our Mission

At Mile High Recovery Center, we believe the journey to healing is different for everyone. Since 2016, our warm and welcoming recovery community in Denver has helped guide individuals down their unique path to health and wholeness.
Our experienced and compassionate team offers personalized treatment plans that tend to each client’s specific needs while utilizing a range of therapies to support growth for the whole person – mind, body and spirit.

Mile High Recovery Center is here to ensure that you get the care you need while providing you with integrated, co-occurring care that addresses all of your symptoms at the root.

what is the 12 step model

What Is The 12 Step Model And Its Relationship To Mental Health?

As perspectives on addiction and mental health evolve, so too must treatment approaches – especially when it comes to the 12-step model. Recovery is no longer viewed as just achieving sobriety; it encompasses sustaining whole person wellness.

At Mile High Recovery Center, we integrate the latest evidence-based therapies to support clients in this broader journey of healing. From medical detox to ongoing community support, our customized services empower sustainable, positive change.

Our team has come to understand that for full, lasting recovery, underlying causes and co-occurring disorders must also be addressed.

What is the 12 Step Model’s Traditional Focus

Recovery communities need to move beyond the outdated mindset that recovery is only about abstaining from substances. Mental health is an integral part of recovery that has wrongly been treated as a “dirty secret.”
Previously, 12-step recovery has been seen solely as abstaining from substance use. This perspective fails to address underlying mental health issues that often contribute to substance misuse. It also perpetuates stigma around mental illness.

What Is the 12 Step Model and Its History?

What is the 12 step model? The 12-step model started from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which was founded in 1935 by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S.1 At this time, options for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment were extremely limited.

The medical field had little understanding of substance use disorder as a disease or how to treat it. AA provided a free, accessible community for alcoholics seeking sobriety.

However, its approach centered narrowly on abstaining from drinking. Mental health, known at the time as “emotional problems,” were seen as something separate that members simply had to “suffer through.” This attitude was likely influenced by the lack of effective treatments at the time.

Still, the 12 step model created an unhelpful separation between substance abuse and mental health recovery. Over time, this led towards more issues with both mental health and substance use disorder.

How Did This Approach Decenter the Importance of Mental Health?

Janet’s story illustrates the problems with this divided approach:
Janet had struggled with alcohol addiction and depression for years. She diligently attended AA meetings and followed the 12 steps. While she succeeded in staying sober, her underlying depression worsened. Janet told fellow members about her suicidal thoughts but received little support. Tragically, she later completed suicide, despite maintaining her sobriety before her death.
Janet’s experience shows the need to address mental health concerns along with substance use. Separating the two can have devastating consequences mentally, physically, and emotionally.

What Is The 12 Step Model?: A New, More Holistic Perspective on Recovery

Today, more and more people are recognizing that recovery encompasses whole-person healing beyond just abstaining from substance use. For complete recovery, underlying mental health issues must also be addressed.2
Self-medication with alcohol or drugs often begins as an unhealthy coping mechanism for difficult emotions or trauma. Simply removing the substance from an individual’s life without dealing with root causes sets people up for relapse or continued distress.

How Does Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help?

Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders leads to better outcomes and more sustainable healing. According to recent studies, over half of individuals receiving integrated treatment for both substance use disorder and mental illness show significant improvement.3
This is why 12-step model recovery communities must provide members with mental health support, not just tools to get sober.
John’s story demonstrates this more holistic approach:
John attended 12 step meetings and worked closely with his sponsor after leaving rehab. While staying sober, he continued struggling with anxiety and depression. With encouragement from group members, John started therapy and medication to manage his mental health. He credits this integrated approach with giving him the stability and tools for an alcohol-free life.
John’s experience highlights that mental wellness matters just as much as sobriety in recovery. Addressing both together leads to more sustainable, positive change.

New Frontiers in Treatment Options For Recovery

Happily, we no longer need to “suffer in sadness” as earlier generations of the 12-step model did. The past few decades have provided great advances in the treatment of mental health conditions. We now have a wide range of therapy options and medications to support emotional well-being.
For example, treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy help people change unhealthy thought patterns that can trigger SUD relapse. Also, newer options like mindfulness training strengthen distress tolerance and emotion regulation abilities.
Medications can also help stabilize mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Integrating these evidence-based treatments into recovery plans leads to better control of cravings and prevention of relapse.

The Benefits of an Integrated Approach

Priscilla’s story shows the benefits of an integrated approach:
Priscilla struggled with alcohol addiction and depression for many years, leading to losing custody of her children. Despite attending AA meetings consistently, she relapsed several times, sinking into deep depression. After her latest relapse, Priscilla’s rehab center recommended intensive therapy and an antidepressant medication. With this support, she has now achieved over a year of sobriety, while also regaining control of her emotional health. Priscilla now has hope she can earn back her children’s trust and create a positive future.
Priscilla’s journey illustrates that with current treatment options, people in 12-step model recovery no longer need to battle mental illness alone.

Mile High Recovery Center’s Approach To Wellness

At Mile High Recovery Center, we recognize the deep links between substance use and mental health. Our programs utilize evidence-based clinical therapies to heal the whole person.
These therapies may include:

Evidence-Based Therapies for Lasting Change

Evidence-based therapies serve as the cornerstones of our treatment programs. These modalities have decades of research demonstrating effectiveness for substance abuse and co-occurring mental health issues.

How CBT Works in Treating Dual Diagnosis

CBT focuses on identifying unhealthy thought and behavior patterns and replacing them with more positive coping strategies. Addictive behaviors often stem from distorted thinking around drugs that are set off by triggers such as stress or boredom.
CBT helps clients recognize these cognitive distortions that lead to substance misuse. Then, individuals learn to challenge and reframe negative thoughts, as well as develop healthier responses to triggers.
For example, a CBT therapist may work with a client to uncover beliefs like “I need alcohol to relax after work.” Together, they would analyze if these thoughts are factual or irrational. Then, the client practices exchanging statements like “I need alcohol” with truths like “drinking has damaged my health and relationships.”
Over time, choosing positive behaviors over substance abuse becomes more automatic. Clients essentially rewire their brains to break addiction’s hold.

How DBT Works in Treating Co-Occurring Symptoms

In a similar way, DBT strengthens mind-body regulation skills as an alternative to self-medicating emotional pain. Clients learn how to tolerate distress without reacting in harmful ways.
This includes strategies like acting opposite to the urge, self-soothing, and improving the moment. DBT also teaches interpersonal skills to ask for support rather than isolating when struggling. Together, these tools help eliminate the need to use substances as a coping mechanism.

How Does EMDR Help Individuals Work Through Symptoms?

EMDR is a therapy that helps individuals process memories stored during traumatic events that often contribute to substance use disorder. Studies indicate that up to 80% of those in treatment for substance abuse struggle with PTSD from experiences like abuse, violence, or loss.4
EMDR helps properly digest these memories so they no longer trigger present pain that may lead to substance use. This alleviates shame, fear, and unhealthy behaviors tied to past trauma. Clients gain control over debilitating symptoms and clarity for the future.

While the techniques differ, CBT, DBT and EMDR share the common thread of identifying and uprooting causes of substance use at their source. Our therapists specialize in these modalities for integrated care. Treatment plans always incorporate clinical best practices tailored to each client’s unique needs.

Holistic Therapies for the Mind, Body, and Spirit

In addition to clinical counseling, we also offer holistic therapies to nurture the whole self throughout recovery.
These complementary treatments include:
  • Music Therapy: Soothing music enhances relaxation, while lyric analysis promotes emotional processing. Other options, like drumming circles and songwriting, help individuals tap into their emotions nonverbally while still working through symptoms.
  • Art Therapy: Creative activities like painting, drawing, or sculpting allow safe exploration of feelings. The art process sparks insight for many individuals.
  • Meditation: Mind-body practices build distress tolerance, awareness, and inner peace. Meditation strengthens the ability to observe thoughts without judgment. Through this, clients gain tools to settle anxiety, manage cravings, and connect to spiritual well-being.
  • Adventure Therapy: Outdoor activities like equine work, nature walks, and recreational sports improve confidence while bonding with others. Adventure therapy also provides a healthy outlet for exercise and enjoyment to support whole health.
These holistic modalities heal the spirit and nurture personal growth to sustain recovery. When they complement clinical methods, they address every dimension of wellness for whole person transformation.

Integrated Treatment With Compassion at Mile High Recovery Center

What sets Mile High Recovery Center apart is how we integrate clinical best practices and holistic care into the 12-step model, all in a welcoming environment.
Our diverse treatment team collaborates closely to address all aspects of substance abuse, mental health, and healing. We provide the evidence-based therapies proven most effective while customizing programs based on each client’s needs.

Other Options for Holistic Treatment

Counselors draw upon their specialized training in CBT, DBT, EMDR, and various other therapies to guide specific treatment goals in individuals at our center. Holistic therapists then nurture the deeper dimensions of wellness through creativity, mindfulness, and more.
Above all, our team delivers care with compassion. We meet every person where they are with empathy, hope, and respect. Building trusting relationships gives clients courage to do the meaningful work of recovery. Therapists offer guidance grounded in understanding, not judgment.
This integrated, humanistic approach allows individuals to heal and grow on every level. With our approach to the 12-step model, clients no longer need to “suffer in silence” with co-occurring disorders or pain from the past.
Our comprehensive resources empower sustainable wellness so alumni can thrive long-term. Treatment cultivates living skills while community provides ongoing belonging. Together, they set the stage for a substance-free life of purpose.
what is the 12 step model

Start Your Journey at Mile High Recovery Center

At Mile High Recovery Center, we understand addiction is a complex disease requiring comprehensive, individualized treatment. At our Denver location, we employ the most effective therapies to heal the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Whether you struggle with drugs, alcohol, trauma, or mental health, our compassionate team will meet you where you are with care and respect. From medical detox to outpatient services, we develop customized plans for lasting change.

We also accept most insurance, and we provide financing options where available as well.

Reach Out for Sustainable and Holistic Healing Today

You deserve to feel seen, heard, and supported. Our admissions team is ready to listen and guide you towards renewed health and purpose. Long-term recovery begins with us.
Reach out today by calling 303-268-2996 or use our form to request a confidential assessment.
Lasting recovery requires care for the whole self, so let us help you reclaim health and joy for the road ahead. Your path to sustainable well-being starts here.

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Reach Out Today to See How Mile High Recovery Center Can Help You Heal

If you or a loved one are ready to regain autonomy over your lives and well-being, recovery starts here. Let us guide you toward sustainable wellness and sobriety through our personalized treatment plans tailored to your unique needs and experiences. We look forward to hearing from you!