Forcing people into 12-step programs violates their right to religious freedom--and doesn't work, anyway.
BY: Charles Bufe
For well over three decades, it's been common for the court and penal system to coerce drunk drivers and others convicted of alcohol-related offences into A.A. and/or 12-step treatment programs. Many others are coerced into 12-step treatment by employers, employee "assistance" programs, and professional licensing agencies.
In all, roughly a million Americans are ordered into treatment every year, and almost all of this treatment is based on the "spiritual" 12-steps approach. Most centers offer clients noalternatives
to A.A. or the 12-step approach. Given the overtlyreligious nature of 12-step programs
, this is a serious threat to religious freedom--and freedom from religion--that has so far received little attention.
Obviously, drunk drivers should be kept off the roads, and some of the individuals coerced into treatment do need help; but research indicates that A.A. is not only ineffective, it may actually be worse than no treatment at all.
There have been only two studies of A.A.'s effectiveness conducted with the proper scientific controls. Both of these studies indicated that A.A. attendance works no better than, and perhaps not as well as, no alcoholism treatment at all. One of the studies showed that a secular approach, Rational Behavior Therapy (now known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy), worked much better than A.A.
In the first of these studies, conducted in San Diego in 1964-65, 301 "chronic drunk offenders" were randomly divided into three groups, which were assigned to A.A., to treatment in an alcoholism clinic, or to no treatment. Within a year, 69% of the group assigned to A.A. (and 68% of the clinic group) had been re-arrested, compared to only 56% of the untreated group.
The second study was carried out in Kentucky in the mid 1970s. This time, 260 subjects who were "revolving door" alcoholic court cases were divided into five groups: one assigned to A.A., a second to nonprofessionally led Rational Behavior Therapy (RBT), a third to professionally led RBT, a fourth to professionally led Freudian therapy, and the fifth group to no treatment.