Heretic in a 12-step treatment system

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on January 15th, 2013 - Last updated: November 21st, 2023
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I just read some letters on Stanton’s web page about the difficulties of being a non-disease counselor in a field dominated by 12 step approaches. I have been employed in this business since 1974 and was an early escapee from the Minnesota model. In the late 70’s I was introduced to Mansell Pattison and the Sobel’s and shortly thereafter to Stanton’s book Love and Addiction.It was then I began to lose the “one true faith.” Since then I have followed the writings and research of people like Alan Marlatt, Mark and Linda Sobell, William Miller and Reid Hester, Sanchez Craig, and of course, Stanton Peele. These people have been responsible for keeping me sane all these years and for encouraging me to quietly and subversively begin to make radical changes in my counseling approaches. This posting is my chance to personally thank these folks.


I’ve been using Stanton’s material for my addiction lectures to clients since his Diseasing of America book came out and I always get positive feedback from the clients. They often tell me it’s the first thing they’ve heard that makes any sense to them. I also have recently begun to document the enormous conceptual changes taking place in this field even among pretty traditional counselors. So change is beginning to filter down, though the old ways continue seemingly in spite of it all. People just seem to compartmentalize the contradictions and go on doing things the way they always have.

To all my fellow heretics: keep the faith.

Marshall Dahlin M.A. – CADClll

Hi Marshall and all!

You describe something very similar to my experience. It is as follows. Any feedback is welcome. I have thorough knowledge of 12-steps programs for more than 10 years and I am a university trained finance person by profession. During the last three years I have studied part-time Psycho Social Working Methods on University level at […] Institute in […], […]. Since February 1996 I have been a co teacher, in my capacity as a person thoroughly acquainted with AA, together with a Criminal Correction Officer (whose heart is in this and for our participants) at a DWI program of one year length in a group for ten persons sentenced by court for DWI and having this program, one year, or jail, one month, as choice. They have to be abstinent during the program. AA is visited three times.

As I worked with these people I started to understand that most of them did not identify as alcoholics and they did not intend to continue after the program with abstinence neither to attend AA meetings. So they returned out in life with no real options or tools for something they wanted. There is some follow up but I have not grasped that any statistics is focused as a measure of effectiveness of the program.

During November 1996 I started to explore Internet and now things started to happened when I played around and searched recovery and alternatives to AA. I did not know such things existed.

Then I found Stanton’s web site got advice via his ask Stanton, which was very important for me personally, then Ms Audrey Kishline and the MM list, this list and a most interesting ongoing and very promising e mail conversation with Reid Hester.

I discussed the information to some degree with my group’s participants and when we found out that 8 out of ten wanted to drink afterwards, then my co teacher, the Criminal Correction Officer who also is the Manager of this program said go on find out more as we might need something more than mostly standing on an AA-type approach. So we could stand on two feet. In January this year I had to make up my mind about what subject to cover in my examination paper at […] and I chose to write on “Follow up of the DWI program and its “AA-approach” based on ten interviews with participants (four from my group and six from other groups) and a literature study of controlled drinking as treatment strategy as a complement”.

With the literature list from Stanton’s web site in my hand I searched the University library in […] and practically found exactly the authors you refer to and two British researchers Nick Heather and Ian Robertson…. I enjoyed this reading immensely and it is the literature review of my paper which is taking shape.

The ten interviews gives many very interesting ideas which I have easier to grasp having the background and common sense from my reading of the authors you refer to. The main point is that none of these ten persons wants to abstain fully afterwards and that the persons not from my group, who have not met any qualified discussion of the option of Controlled or Moderate Drinking, were more ambivalent…. It’s harder to choose something that you don’t know exists.

Kind regards

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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