Further Reading

Tell me how Janet Woititz found that children of alcoholics who avoid 12-step groups do better

Dear Stanton:

In working with high risk adolescents, including my own son, now 18, I have not witnessed much success of the AA/NA programs with teenagers. Can you recommend a recovery program that is best suited for teenagers who are not ready to jump into abstinence as their first choice, or are they ready to say that they have a disease they cannot control for the rest of their lives.

I have been reading about alternative programs, such as, Rational Recovery, SMART, Harm Reduction, all of which seem might be better alternatives at working with teens, as opposed to AA/NA.

Any advice?


Dear Margie:

You are certainly right that AA/NA is ineffective with children. Actually, AA does not work as an overall treatment approach for any group. But AA is fundamentally stupid and wrongheaded for adolescents. The vast majority of young people outgrow their alcohol and drug problems. To commit them to a lifetime self-image as an alcoholic or addict is criminal.

Like all those who abuse substances, young people require the skills, values, interests, and opportunities to be constructively involved with life. People are best able to acquire these in their homes, schools, and communities. Any alternative source for providing them is bound to be difficult and to take more effort than acquiring them naturalistically. On the other hand, in most cases young people only require the space to grow out of unhealthy drug and alcohol use. This may not be a minor thing for young people inclined to harm themselves while awaiting this natural development.

Thus, groups which serve to integrate and assimilate adolescents or other youths, which give them a chance to meet and deal with productive individuals, that provide opportunities for learning and accomplishment, are the best group involvements for children struggling to find direction and to clear themselves of negative involvements. There really is no substitute for such group options—all therapy groups tend to focus on negatives and to associate the individual with others with problems, which are not really the best ways to clear self-induced obstacles from a young person's path.

Probably the funniest (ha, ha) example of just how stupid and self-defeating 12-step type groups are for the young was the classic Rutgers University Ph.D. dissertation study by children-of-alcoholics expert Janet Woititz. After building up the idea that 12-step groups would help youthful children of alcoholics, Woititz in fact found that those who attended Alateen had significantly lower self-esteem than a did those in a non-Alateen group. Woititz's conclusion was that "the non-Alateen children are still in the process of denial." So, if you want your children to practice the denial involved in maintaining their self-esteem, keep them out of crazy 12-step groups.

Best wishes,