What is the relationship between psychodynamic psychotherapy and the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous? A heuristic enquiry

Author: Hunter, Phoebe

Publisher: Auckland University of Technology

Type: Thesis

Link to this item using this URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10292/8884

Auckland University of Technology


This dissertation is a heuristic enquiry into the relationship between psychodynamic psychotherapy and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I make use of my experience as a client of psychodynamic psychotherapy and as someone working the 12 Steps in order to investigate the relationship between them. The research chronicles how I arrived at Alcoholics Anonymous in the context of having spent several years as a client of psychoanalysis. It examines in detail how I make use of the Steps and psychotherapy as distinct but complementary paths to recovery from alcoholism. It explores some of the literature pertaining to psychotherapy and the 12 Steps, specifically emphasising the role of spirituality in recovery and the tensions that can arise between psychodynamic psychotherapy and spirituality. It also explores spirituality within the context of Alcoholics Anonymous for people who do not identify with the concept of an external deity as is written in the 12 Steps. Within psychotherapy there has been confusion and contradiction in how to respond to people with addiction and in Alcoholics Anonymous there has been hostility and mistrust of psychotherapy. From my own experience of entering therapy and struggling with addiction, I became aware of a gap or disjunction in psychoanalytic thinking around treating addiction. I have offered an account of my lived experience in the expectation it will be meaningful and have practical use for people who are seeking help and for the therapists hoping to treat them. I hope that psychotherapists will be able to feel more confident in what they might be able to offer clients and more aware of the limits of what they can offer, so as to feel more encouraged to seek help from other sources if necessary. In making transparent the ways psychotherapy and the Steps operate in my life, I aim to show how both can be usefully integrated to the benefit of both clients with addiction issues and the therapists treating them.

Subjects: Psychodynamic psychotherapy, 12 Steps, Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism, Heuristic, Spirituality

Copyright: OpenAccess