Self-help Groups

Are self-help groups truly effective?

There are many self-help groups for people suffering from addictions, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. Many people seek support from a self-help organisation as soon as they become aware of their problems.


Some find long-term sobriety and happiness from a self-help group without having any other treatment, but unfortunately this is unusual. Most self-help groups, by their own admission, have a very low success rate in dealing with addictions.

But when self-help groups are used as part of after-care treatment – an on-going support network after residential treatment or intensive day-care therapy – they can be very effective.

How to find the right self-help group


One of the advantages of entering treatment is an introduction to self-help groups while you are there, and the support of staff to answer your questions. But it is important to realise that, although these groups provide a lifeline to millions around the world, they may not be the right option for you.


Many people refuse to try the well-known self-help groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) as they use a 12-step programme that many believe to be of religious persuasion, and others give up after a trial period.

We at Red Umbrella not only work closely with residential treatment that is 12 step-orientated, but we also work with non-12-step facilities and have many options for after-care and on-going support. We invite you to call us at any stage in your recovery to discuss these options, and we recommend intensive treatment first at one of our hand-picked facilities.


Smart Recovery is growing fast internationally as a help group that is non-step and focused on relapse prevention and taking control of your life. See below for some general information on self-help groups and please call us for a non-biased and more intimate view of their workings.


Here are the 12 steps and the Smart Recovery philosophies.

Smart Recovery


  1. Completely accept that you are fallible. Your fallibility includes thinking in a manner that greatly hinders you in your individual pursuits and in relating to people with whom you live, work and associate.
  2. Intensely focus on eliminating your emotional upsets quickly (as soon as they occur) and regularly (several times a week). Follow this practice to give yourself more freedom from self-defeat and towards happiness.
  3. Forgive yourself your mistakes. You will make many of them. Practice effective self-help techniques and you will eventually improve your behaviours and your abilities to change. Tolerate others’ shortcomings and forgive their mistakes. Keep your friendships even with their problems, because you won’t find any that do not have them.
  4. Accept that you are a creature who thrives on happiness, delight, joy and love, and work to develop your ability to find and achieve these in as many ways as you can.
  5. Accept yourself with your mistakes and shortcomings.
  6. Work and practice, and you will eventually improve your abilities to change.
  7. Absorb yourself in a long-term interest that brings you happiness.

The 12 Steps


  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

We at Red Umbrella endorse no one and have no particular preference to any method of achieving long-term sobriety, as long as it works for the individual. Call us for a chat about how we can help you find the right self-help group for you.

With membership open to everyone who wants to tackle a drinking problem, Alcoholics Anonymous is an international society and available almost everywhere. The non-professional, self-supporting fellowship was started by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob in 1935 and is known for the 12 steps and “The Big Book”.
AA – Alcoholics Anonymous
The second-biggest 12-step organisation in the world, Narcotics Anonymous defines itself as a “non-profit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”. It was founded by Jimmy Kinnon in 1953 and now welcomes people with a wide range of substance abuse issues.
NA – Narcotics Anonymous
A 12-step programme for drug addicts who want to recover, Cocaine Anonymous was created in 1982 by a long-term Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) member in Los Angeles. It is similar to AA, although the groups are not connected. CA members may have been addicted to substances including cocaine, crack or speed, but it is not necessary to be a cocaine addict to join.
CA – Cocaine Anonymous
The only requirement to be a member of Overeaters Anonymous is to want to stop compulsive eating. It is a 12-step programme for anyone with food problems, including people with binge-eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia and compulsive overeaters. It was started in 1960 by Rozanne S and two other women.
OA – Overeaters Anonymous
Members of Gamblers Anonymous decide to turn themselves over to a higher power to help them live a life free from gambling. The organisation, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1957, is a group of compulsive gamblers who help others to stop via a 12-step programme. Step 1 requires the member to admit they are powerless over their gambling addiction.
GA – Gamblers Anonymous
Helping people with emotional difficulties, Emotions Anonymous is a 12-step fellowship similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Since 1971, weekly meetings have seen people come together to work towards recovery from a wide range of emotional problems, including low self-esteem, depression, anger, compulsive behaviour, strained relationships and grief.
EA – Emotions Anonymous
Anyone who wants to work at enjoying healthy relationships can attend Co-Dependants Anonymous meetings. The informal groups were set up in 1986 and welcome men and women who want to tackle the issues that co-dependency has caused in their lives. The organisation is based on Alcoholics Anonymous and follows an adapted version of the 12 steps and traditions.
CoDa – Co-Dependants Anonymous
This 12-step fellowship is available to help anyone suffering with addictions to sex, love and fantasy, or people who have a problem with romantic obsession, co-dependent relationships and sexual, social and emotional anorexia. It was founded in 1976 and is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous model.
SLAA – Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
The leading self-empowering addiction recovery support group, Smart Recovery uses the latest scientific research to help its members. It was founded in 1992 and follows the Smart Recovery 4-point Program, which helps people recover from a wide range of addictions and addictive behaviours. These could be anything from drug abuse and drug addiction, to a gambling or sexual addiction. They also provide support via an online message board and 24/7 chat room.
Smart Recovery
Al-Anon Family Groups are there for the people affected by someone else’s alcoholism. It is not a counselling or advice service, but members share their own experiences and give each other hope and strength through understanding. Alateen, which is part of Al-Anon, is for youths aged 12 to 17 who have been affected by a loved one’s drinking. The groups recognise that the wounds run deep, so they are there for anyone affected in this way, no matter if the drinker has now stopped, died or is no longer a part of the member’s life.

Talk to us on the phone or via live chat and we can explain these options to you, so that you can make the right recovery choice.