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The 12-step program, also known as the Minnesota model, is a form of treatment or therapy for addictions. This form of help for addictions originated in the United States, where it has been used very successfully within Alcoholics Anonymous circles since around 1930. Because the treatment proved so successful with alcohol addiction, it was subsequently applied to other types of addictions such as drug addiction, sex addiction or internet addiction. Subsequently, the 12-step programme was also applied to people with eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and other behavioural problems. Successful again.

What is the 12-step program?

The 12-step program actually describe the road to recovery, from the very first moment you recognise you have a problem, to the end of treatment when you yourself are recovered and pass on your experiences to other addicts.

The idea is that you also try to help these people recover. Although the steps were created by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), the 12-step program is also perfectly suited to other types of addictions.

What does the 12-step program look like?

The 12-step program is a form of group therapy, where people tell each other what issues they are struggling with and what they are up against in practice. The others listen with interest but do not judge or condemn the other person.

Furthermore, 12 affirmations and guiding principles are used, which are repeated frequently by group members. This gives control back to the person with the addiction. He or she is reprogrammed in a positive way, as it were, and learns that he or she can overcome the addiction independently and with the support of the others.

It involves rigorous withdrawal from addiction, focusing on the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of addiction and the consequences of quitting. People who are already further along in the process help the newcomers by offering help where needed, based on their own experiences and obstacles. Thus, people with addiction help each other through the difficult process of overcoming addiction and reshaping their lives. They help each other make a new and clean start.

Why is the 12-step program so successful for treating addictions?

The method provides a safe environment for people to work on self-development away from their daily lives and problems. The 12-step plan takes into account the complex nature of addictions, which have multiple causes and affect all aspects of the person’s life and environment (and those around them). Group therapy also works exceptionally well with addictions. People recognise their own problems and obstacles in others and see how they overcome addiction bit by bit. This makes them realise that they too have the strength to do the same and leave addiction behind.


Addiction makes you feel lonely and isolates you from those around you. Our treatment aims to break this isolation by building a bond with other people. That’s why Minnesota treatment is group treatment. You experience what it is like to share your feelings and receive support instead of isolating and shaming yourself. This sense of belonging gives you the strength to recover from your addiction.

Own responsibility

Addiction is a disease of the brain. It makes you lose more and more control over your life. You can’t help having this disease. After all, you were born with this vulnerability. However, you are responsible for how you deal with your illness. Someone with diabetes, for example, chooses not to take sugar, otherwise he will get sick. It works the same way with addiction. You will learn during treatment what your pitfalls are and what choices are best for your health.

Full stop

Essential for successful treatment is your willingness to completely stop using alcohol, drugs or gambling. This is because if you do not stop completely, you will maintain your addiction. You then also run the risk of becoming addicted to another addictive substance or gambling.

The 12 steps of the Minnesota Model

The 12 steps of the Minnesota Model are more than 80 years old. As such, the language is no longer entirely contemporary. In addition, the original steps also contain a religious angle, invoking the help of a higher power.

Are you not religious? Of course, that’s not a problem. Over the years, the 12 steps have been modernised so that they can be used well even without a religious angle.

The original 12 steps are:

  1. We recognised that we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become directionless.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to spiritual health.
  3. We decided to surrender our will and our lives into the care of God, as each of us “accepts Him personally”.
  4. We made a profound and fearless moral assessment of our lives.
  5. We confessed before God, before ourselves and before another human being the right nature of our misdeeds.
  6. We were perfectly willing to let God remove all our character flaws.
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. We made a list of the names of all those who had suffered harm and suffering because of us and declared our willingness to make it up to them all.
  9. We made amends directly with such people wherever possible, except when doing so would hurt them or others.
  10. We made a habit of examining ourselves and immediately acknowledged the mistakes we had made.
  11. We sought by prayer and reflection to deepen our contact with God, however each of us accepts Him personally, and prayed only for Him to make us know His will and for the strength to accomplish it.
  12. Now that these Steps have led us to spiritual awareness, we sought to pass this message on to alcoholics and to apply these principles in all our doings.

The current 12 steps are:

  1. Acknowledge the problem
  2. Admit that you need help
  3. Accept the help
  4. Take stock of your life
  5. Confess your own missteps and those towards others
  6. Discover your own weaknesses and shortcomings
  7. Work on your own weaknesses and shortcomings
  8. Make a list of people you have harmed
  9. Get in touch with these people and try to make amends
  10. From now on, look at yourself critically and acknowledge your own mistakes directly
  11. Find a way to find peace in your life, e.g. through meditation or prayer
  12. Help others and pass on your own experiences

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