As my old law school professors used to say: “It depends.” There are many reasons to go to a structured support group such as AA, and I suppose first and foremost among them is to help you maintain your sobriety. This web site is not in any way affiliated with AA, and we suggest that if you want to learn more about AA, attend a few meetings, or simply visit their web site.
From a legal perspective, your attorney may recommend that you go to AA because he or she thinks it will look good to the judge. This certainly may be true, but is hardly a good reason, in and of itself, to attend AA. I’ve heard it said that you should go to AA until you like going. After that you no longer have to attend.
As effective as AA may be at helping people maintain their sobriety, it is often not the entire answer. We don’t think it is necessarily enough to help our clients win back their lives, but it certainly may be a main component for some people. The reason we believe that AA may not be the entire answer or solution is that AA does not treat the underlying causes for your issues with alcohol.
Here’s how we look at the mental health field in general.
- Psychiatrists – Are medical doctors who treat mental illness largely through the use of medication. If your mental health issue has a chemical component to it, then it will be necessary for you to treat with a psychiatrist who will prescribe the proper medication. For example, if you suffer from clinical depression, it may be caused by a chemical imbalance for which medication can be very therapeutic.
- Psychologists – If your mental illness is largely based on how you think rather than because of a chemical imbalance, then you may find it helpful to explore your thinking with a psychologist. Perhaps your depression is caused by a recent death or job loss, and can be effectively treated by learning how to more productively think about these issues in your life. Relative to alcohol or substance abuse, a psychologist will start by performing an adult substance abuse evaluation. The result of such evaluation may include referral to a structured support group such as AA.
- Structured Support Groups – These are usually the traditional “12-step” programs, the original of which was AA. The major benefit of a support group is that it provides a specific structure that can be very helpful and effective at addressing and eliminating the destructive use and abuse of alcohol. Rather than a substitute, AA is typically a compliment to either the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry.