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Do I Need Therapy if I’m Already in AA?

AA and other 12 Step programs are free and abundant. Wherever you are in the world, there is probably a meeting not far away. As a result, 12 Step meetings are the only help many people get for addiction, and they often work. You might wonder whether 12 Step meetings are all you need to stay sober.

It really depends on your situation. AA is for anyone who want to stop drinking but can’t. That is a very big tent. It includes high school students who want to stop binging on the weekends, middle managers whose performance is slipping because they’re always hungover, homeless people who can’t seem to hold a job, and everyone in between. Inclusion is a strength of 12 Step programs, but it also has limitations. Not everyone misuses drugs and alcohol for the same reasons. The Steps are enough for some people, but others need a different kind of help.

More than half of people who struggle with addiction have another mental health issue as well, or a dual diagnosis. This can be any problem that contributes to the addiction. Some common dual diagnoses with addiction include depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and schizophrenia. It’s probably true that sobriety will ameliorate the symptoms a little, but it won’t eliminate them entirely. These conditions are often the reason people started using in the first place, and neglecting to treat them will make sobriety difficult.

Unfortunately, 12 Step programs just aren’t designed to deal with a serious mental health challenge. They are only meant to help people get sober. Most common dual diagnoses require professional help.  Sometimes people suffering with these conditions require medication just to be able to participate in their own recovery. If you have a dual diagnosis, it’s best to see a therapist and work on getting that issue under control.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to AA if you have a dual diagnosis. 12 Step programs can provide valuable social support and meaning to people in recovery. While a therapist can give you expert advice and arrange for medication if you need it, it’s not really her job to provide social support. 12 Step meetings are an excellent place to talk to people who understand what you’re going through.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.