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Analyzing Step 11 of the 12 Steps

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12-steps-step-11Here's the 11th in our series on a different perspective with the 12-Steps addiction treatment program and how each step compares with a 12 Steps alternative approach. We understand the 12 Steps have helped many, many people over the years, and we respect that success. We also recognize that the approach does not work for everyone. We’ll look at each individual step until we’re done with all 12 Steps. The main purpose of this series is to present an alternative perspective with the 12 Steps you may not have considered. We want to make it easy for you to understand the differences as you go through your addiction treatment research.

What is the AA 12 Steps Addiction Treatment Program?

The AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) 12 Steps program has been in existence since 1939. It was created by an alcoholic for other alcoholics, and relies on group support and behavior modification to a very large degree. It is still the main healing protocol and approach in the vast majority of addiction treatment programs (including very expensive residential treatment centers).

Since that time though, there have been many breakthroughs in psychology, spirituality and healing, but the 12 Steps have not been updated to take advantage of these advances.

With that let's take a look at 12 Steps Step 11.

Another Look at Step 11 of the 12 Steps Program

Step 11 of the 12 Steps program states:

"We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out."

Step 11 is a breath of fresh air.

In this day and age you rarely see a focus on God. Usually the focus is on money, physical appearance, bra size, and what kind of car you drive.

If you were to strip away the looks, the money, the bra size and the car what would you have?

Here is the beauty of the 11th Step – what's left is you and your relationship with God.

Throughout the ages countries were founded on religious belief. “One nation under God” was the slogan of our own. Today it is a thing of the past in our government, schools, and in the minds of many people in so-called secular nations. The 11th Step of AA keeps the tradition of one’s Higher Power alive.

Psychologically speaking, the belief in God is a healthy one.

Existentialism is founded on the belief that if a person doesn’t have any spiritual belief then life is a death sentence. The mere fact that death is eminent leads to tremendous anxiety and panic. For the Existential therapist, their work is to assist the client in discovering a spiritual belief.

Other psychological approaches have tried to include God into the mix.

Psychosynthesis with Roberto Assagioli was the first. As a correspondent of Sigmund Freud, he disagreed with Freud’s belief that humans are motivated by sexual urges and maintained that people are motivated by spiritual ones. He believed that since man was created in the image of God, the blueprint of God is within each and every one of us. By getting in tune with this inner image, peace can be found.

Abraham Maslow piggy-backed Assagioli’s theory when he proposed his famous Hierarchy of Needs model. The pinnacle of his model is referred to as “Self-Actualization.” Self-actualization can be seen as similar to self-discovery, self-reflection, self-realization and self exploration. It is basically where a person reaches enlightenment.

12 Steps Step 11 and Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs

In Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs Model” he maintains that this enlightenment is only achieved after a person’s physiological, security, social, and self esteem needs are met. Once they achieve this enlightened place, a person actually feels part of everything.


Many people that adhere to a hard lined evidence-based psychological approach believe that Step 11 bypasses the elements of Dr. Maslow’s model. Other’s are not that strict. Let’s take a look at the hierarchy more closely.

Physiological Needs

These are the needs for our physical body – breathing, food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, sex. If these basics aren’t obtained, the focus is on obtaining the cherished item. For example, if you were scuba diving and your tank ran out of air, that last thirty feet you'd only focus on getting to the surface.

These physiological needs are a given for most of us - 90% of the population has these needs handled.

Safety and Security Needs

Safety and security needs refer to one’s health, employment, property, family, and social stability. If a person does not have a job, the focus is on getting one.

Love and Belonging

Love and belonging needs refer to friendship, family, intimacy, and a sense of connection. With no love in one’s life, a void is felt.


Self esteem refers to confidence, achievement, respect of others, and the need to be a unique individual. Esteem of oneself can be achieved only when the lower items of the hierarchy are met .


Self actualization is the pinnacle of the model and refers to morality, creativity, spontaneity, acceptance, experiencing purpose, meaning and inner potential. Basically a spiritual awakening.

Maslow and Spiritual Psychology

In Maslow's model, the focus on God could never be debated. But as quantum physics suggests an intelligence greater than ourselves that organizes all matter, the God Movement of the past may again be on the rise. Step 11, which was developed in the 1930s, may come back into public fashion once again.

Spiritual Psychology is a newer psychological approach that blends God with psychology principles. For years psychologists believed that bringing the subconscious to the conscious was what it took to heal and individual. New research now suggest that this approach can retraumatize an individual.

With Spiritual Psychology, once the subconscious material is brought to the surface and love is then applied, incredible healing takes place. Since God is love, the focus of the approach is on The Almighty.

Step 11 and God

Improving our conscious contact with the God of our understanding has merit. It is key in Step 11, and it's the main factor in the Spiritual Psychology approach. More and more, psychology is trending back to our ancestral roots. God has been proven scientifically and with God in the psychological setting, miracles can take place.

About The Clearing

The Clearing is a residential treatment center located on beautiful San Juan Island, Washington. We created The Clearing in response to the pervasiveness of treatment centers that focus more on luxury than modern, evidence-based therapy.

Our approach is based on healing the underlying core issues that cause addiction. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, or download our free eBook:

Free eBook Download:  Another Look at the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous


  Download eBook:  Healing Underlying Core Issues
Gregg Makuch

This post was written by Gregg Makuch

Gregg helps get the word out about The Clearing. When he’s not riding his bike and enjoying the beauty of the San Juan Islands, Gregg loves to cook and spend time with his family.

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