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Title: How does AA's 12 Steps and membership of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous work for addressing drinking problems?
Author: Irving, James Graeme
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 0347
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the world’s largest and most recognisable recovery ‘program’, and central to its philosophy is the 12 Step Program. AA is a global organisation of 2.2 million members worldwide (AAWS, 2001), with a reported 3,600 weekly meetings in the United Kingdom (AAWS, 2011). AA has made many claims in their literature about the program’s effectiveness (AAWS, 2001: 84). Alcoholism is associated with a number of very serious health and social problems, including involvement in crime (Finney 2004; Fitzpatrick, 2010; Alcohol Reduction Strategy 2003). As fiscal pressure mounts, groups such as AA will be of interest to policy makers. Through an analysis of interviews with twenty long-term abstinent members of Alcoholics Anonymous, the thesis seeks to explain the effects of participation in AA’s therapeutic practices. Evidence from the literature on AA, revealed three concepts key to understanding participation in AA: Motivation to Engage (MtE), Structured Social Engagement (SSE), and Personal Agency (PA). A hypothetical model of AA-mediated behavioural change, constituted by these elements, was constructed and the findings supported this putative model. Further analysis revealed the coping strategies members of AA employed that ensured engagement with AA during stressful life events that threatened abstinence. The model was adapted to incorporate the temporal effects of long-term engagement with AA. Elements of Maruna’s (2001: 73) Condemnation Script resonated in the narratives of AA members. Contra Maruna’s analysis, AA members accepted ‘condemnation script’, but these were not negative, limiting beliefs. AA’s therapeutic practices structure, a coherent sense of self, one that supports cessation from negative patterns of drinking. The data exposed the sustained usage of AA’s discourse in the narrative accounts given. This finding extends Borkman’s (1976) Experiential Knowledge thesis, a language of ‘truth’ based on personal experience. The ‘linguistic echoes’ embedded in each narrative, suggests that a person uses AA’s discourse to ‘scaffold’ their recovery. This thesis provides an explanation of AA’s therapeutic practices of how adherence to AA’s principles, cognitively restructures the individual towards mastering self-control. AA’s philosophy and the following empirical evidence asserts abstinence as pre-requisite for recovery from alcohol dependence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Alcoholism, Recovery, Desistance, 12 Steps