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Keywords:

  • 12-Step Involvement;
  • AA;
  • Spirituality;
  • Treatment Outcomes

Background:  Emerging evidence implies a role for spirituality in recovery from substance abuse. The current study examines the hypothesis that spiritual change helps mediate (or explain) effects for involvement in 12-step groups on recovery outcomes among substance-abusing populations.

Methods:  Participants (baseline N = 733) received treatment at 1 of 5 day hospital and 7 residential substance abuse treatment programs in California. Assessments included a baseline interview and 1-year follow-up; analyses incorporated regressions informed by Baron and Kenny (1986) and Sobel’s (1982) test. To assess spirituality, measures included (1) the Religious Background and Behaviors scale and (2) an item assessing whether or not participants had had a spiritual awakening through their involvement with 12-step groups.

Results:  Results confirmed the hypothesis. Increases in 12-step involvement from baseline to follow-up predicted higher odds of total abstinence at follow-up, and this relationship was partially explained by increases in spirituality. Results held in multivariate analyses and regardless of which spirituality measure was analyzed.

Conclusions:  The present study provides further evidence that spiritual change contributes to recovery, at least within the context of 12-step involvement. The study also deepens our understanding of how 12-step involvement works.