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Acupuncture and 12-Step Recovery

When used as recommended by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, acupuncture in addiction treatment acts in harmony with many of the principles and mechanisms of 12-Step recovery:

  • 12-Step meetings involve people with a common problem participating in a supportive group.
  • Acupuncture mirrors the group setting but without verbal interaction or expectations, thus providing a safe entree to the emotional value and support of group process.

  • 12-Step programs advocate that recovery is a daily effort.
  • Acupuncture is optimally provided daily in the same one-day-at-a-time rhythm.

  • The 12-Step culture emphasizes "progress, not perfection."
  • Acupuncture is not presented as a "cure" but as something that will help the person feel better in the present moment.

  • 12-Step meetings do not require assessment in order for benefit to be realized
  • The five-point acupuncture protocol is "generic," not depending upon diagnosis or assessment to be beneficial.

  • The initial stages in the therapeutic process in 12-Step recovery involve the person's accepting and then redefining their relationship with the substance of choice.
  • Acupuncture treatments bring people in contact with the physical consequences of their substance use, hence reducing denial and often increasing motivation to change while at the same time keeping the focus on the substance before prematurely expanding into psycho-social issues that need to be addressed.

  • Therapeutic movement in the 12-Step culture is a turning away from dependence upon the substance of addiction and toward inner healing resources, or away from the inner psychic state of isolation and toward acceptance outwardly of the tools and resources that will support recovery. An adage of 12-Step programs is that "recovery is an inside job," not dependent upon "people, places, and things," and 12-Step literature suggests that many discover a "higher power" within themselves.
  • Acupuncture directs the client's attention inward toward the sources of healing. With daily acupuncture, clients come to identify primarily not with the therapist or program staff but with a therapeutic process.

  • A successful therapeutic mechanism of the 12-Step culture is peer bonding. More advanced stages in the 12-Step therapeutic process involve the person's beginning to view the larger context of their substance use by identifying with the recovery stories of others, by forming relationships, and by doing the inventory and amends steps.
  • The acupuncture clinic provides non-structured opportunities for clients to form bonds with one another, an environment in which people can share stories with their peers and form sober relationships as they begin to stabilize.

  • 12-Step programs move people away from the notion of increasing efforts at control and toward a state of "surrender."
  • Acupuncture helps people feel more relaxed, with less reliance on having to be in control.

  • The 12-Step regimen is not rigidly imposed, acknowledging individual differences in the pace at which people work the steps.
  • Acupuncture gives the program the freedom to adopt a "first things first" philosophy, allowing people to find their own way of becoming ready to participate in more prescribed program components.

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