THERAPISTS IN AA
I have been an addictions counselor for several years. I have concerns that the organization of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is misrepresented in "Does Alcoholics Anonymous Work?" by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld. The authors suggest that AA does not support the use of mental health professionals. This is in direct contrast to the statement in “The Big Book,” AA’s basic text: “God has abundantly supplied this world with fine doctors, psychologists and practitioners of various kinds.” In addition, on page 133 the book indicates that health care professionals, including psychiatrists, are often indispensable in the care of a newcomer. AA’s philosophy is to include the assistance of health care professionals according to the literature that drives the AA program.
ARKOWITZ AND LILIENFELD REPLY: The writer is correct in stating that AA does in fact support the use of professional mental health services by members. Our statement that they do not was in error. As we pointed out, a combination of AA and psychotherapy is better than either one singly, and we are pleased that AA does encourage its members to seek this helpful combination.
I found it remarkable that the article on Alcoholics Anonymous did not deal more with the religious aspects of the 12-step credo—for instance, comparing its effectiveness with that of the secular AA-style organizations you listed.
My son attended the Salvation Army version of AA here in Australia, a live-in course provided for a dozen or so men at a time. He is a very intelligent young man and found it difficult to reconcile his atheism with the requirement to submit to an authority that he did not recognize.
During his time in the course, he made a concerted effort to come to an understanding about his beliefs, as well as trying to work with the requirements of the 12-step credo. He suddenly started reading many books on philosophy, mathematics and science; I believe that he was trying to counter the submissive approach of the Salvation Army course.
The religious requirement of the course acted as an impediment to any real progress for my son. Rather than giving the authority for change to someone or something else (God), the organization should give it back to the person and reinforce it as a positive. I am sure there are AA-style credos with these features.
Mind magazine is all I hoped it might be. At age 98 I have let most magazine subscriptions lapse but am keeping Mind, which fills in a good many gaps in my outdated medical education.