Author Information

Linda Myllmaki


Twelve step recovery programs are prevalent in the United States, however, there is relatively little empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of these programs for female alcoholics or addicts. How women experience the process of recovery within the twelve-step model is critical to our overall understanding of the recovery process. This article reports the results of an exploratory qualitative study of women in Alcoholics Anonymous. Through the use of semi-structured interviews, nine women were asked to discuss their personal experiences of recovery in the AA program. Grounded theory methodology was utilized to analyze the data. Reasons for joining AA, meeting attendance, sponsorship, concepts of a higher power and feelings regarding powerlessness emerged as dominate themes. Results showed external and internal influences played an important role in women’s decisions to join AA. Regular attendance at AA meetings, considered essential to recovery in the program, was supported. Women preferred a reciprocal relationship with friends in AA as an alternative to a one-on-one association with a sponsor. All participants developed a concept of a higher power that worked for them that was fundamentally different than the “God” they had been taught about in their childhood religious education. The concept of powerlessness, as defined in Step One of the Twelve Steps of AA, was a positive concept among all women interviewed. This study adds to the knowledge base of evidence-based practice of women in recovery, and enhances knowledge of Twelve Step effectiveness for women.

Note on the Author

Linda Myllmaki is a senior majoring in Social Work and will graduate in May of 2011. This research was undertaken in the summer of 2010 as an Adrian Tinsley Program Summer Grant project. These studies were completed under the mentorship of Dr. Kathleen Bailey. Linda was able to conduct qualitative research in her field of study and presented her findings at the 2010 ATP Summer Research Symposium and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in March of 2011 at Ithaca College.

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