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What is a 12-step group and how can it help me?

Updated: Feb 24, 2023


First Step Men's Therapy helps men across Ontario, Canada develop healthier relationships with themselves and others. We offer individual, couples, and group counselling to men and their families online using our secure telehealth platform.


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One of the biggest questions we get it, what is a 12-step meeting and why is it important for me to be a part of one. Perhaps you have only heard or seen one in the movies, or you have family members or friends that have attended in the past. When reading this, many might wonder whether they are really addicted or need to join such a group. Here are a few things to differentiate what a 12-step group is and what it is not.


What a 12-step group is:

  • A place to gain support and connection from individuals undergoing similar experiences

  • A place for accountability and mutual respect

  • An opportunity for connection and fellowship

  • A place to break through the shame and denial of addictive behaviour

  • A chance to learn from the experience, strength, and hope of others

  • An opportunity to use new skills and understanding from therapy sessions

  • Some meetings may be focused on a certain population such as men-only, female-only, LGBTQ2S+, couples, or other populations as a way to provide greater support and safety.

  • A path to healing in a safe, anonymous space

  • A group that is free and open to anyone with a serious commitment to recovery.

What a 12-step group is not:

  • Group therapy

  • A replacement for therapy (getting to the root of the issues)

  • A place to divulge painful or sensitive information that you may not be comfortable sharing in a public setting

In our experience, a combination of 12-step groups and individual and/or group therapy has been the key to lasting change, relapse prevention, and a chance for greater intimacy and vulnerability with others. Each group and fellowship (ex. Gamblers Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Porn Addicts Anonymous) have different formats, meeting topics, and resources that focus on understanding the addiction and finding better ways to recover from it. Some meetings may be men-only, female-only, LGBTQ2S+, or centered around another population to provide greater support and safety. Every meeting will have a different environment and vibe, thus we recommend trying out different meetings and locations as a way to find one that resonates and speaks to you.


Addiction is a disease of isolation. The more an individual is willing to connect and spend time with others, particularly those that have a similar addiction, the greater the chance for long-term recovery and growth. While we could discuss in detail more about the 12-step process and experience, we prefer to keep it brief and allow you to experience more about 12-step programs as part of your own recovery and healing journey.


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