In substance abuse treatment, many clients benefit from peer support. This can come in therapy or another group model like a 12-step program. Peer support gives clients accountability, helpful feedback, and a sense of community. The 12-step model, in particular, offers the benefit of a framework for completing a moral inventory. This refers to a comprehensive reflection on one’s character and background related to substance abuse. Moral inventory examples can include inventories of how you behave in certain relationships, situations, and other aspects of life.
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What Is a Moral Inventory?
Within the 12-step model, participants reflect on the scope and impact of their addiction and work to repair the damage done. In the process, they appeal to a Higher Power in whatever sense they understand it for assistance and support.
How to Engage in a Moral Inventory
Whichever moral inventory example happens, it often corresponds with steps four and five of a 12-step program. In step four, the participant completes the inventory itself. Then, in step five, they share it with at least one other person, often their sponsor. Sponsors serve as mentors and guide through the 12-step process. As persons who have completed the program, they can help sponsees by providing support, insight, and compassion.
The structure of the moral inventory varies from one 12-step group to another and from individual to individual. Nonetheless, its fundamental goal is to ask the participant to reflect on their life. In this, they’ll also identify character defects and their negative impact on self and others. By “character defects,” 12-step practitioners mean harmful coping mechanisms or self-defeating behaviors.
Typically, participants start by journaling freely to create the basis for their inventory. Spelling, grammar, and quality of writing are unimportant. Participants should be encouraged to write about themselves wholly and honestly.
Examples of Insights from Doing a Moral Inventory
By completing a moral inventory, a participant might conclude the following regarding how their negative coping mechanisms have harmed them and others:
- “Sometimes self-pity leads me to give up on myself before I’ve truly tried or given myself a chance to be different from my self-limiting expectations.”
- “In minimizing the harm done to me in past abusive relationships, I’ve done a disservice to my present self.”
- “Sometimes I’ve pre-judged others unfairly due to projection based on my fears and past traumas.”
- I’ve kept others at arm’s length, assumed the worst of them, or treated them hurtfully out of resentment or jealousy.
Although they’ll share some of this with at least one other person in step five, the work is personal and therapeutic.
How Does the 12-Step Approach Fit Into Addiction Treatment?
With a comprehensive approach, clients might receive inpatient or outpatient services. Either way, there will be a greater focus on medical and psychological intervention. In addition to a group component of some kind, typical elements of formal alcohol or drug treatment include the following:
- Detox – Withdrawal symptoms may be very uncomfortable and even dangerous, depending on the substance and the level of chemical dependency a person has. Likewise, cravings may be quite challenging during early recovery. Medical detox can be beneficial because it ensures adequate care and often includes medication to manage cravings and other symptoms.
- Individual therapy – Working with a psychologist or therapist one-on-one can be a powerful way to address the root causes of one’s substance abuse and identify any co-occurring mental health issues.
- Holistic interventions – Many treatment programs offer holistic strategies like yoga, art therapy, and equine-assisted therapy. Clients gain valuable unconscious processing time by engaging in non-verbal processing and being physically and creatively active.
For people who do not require intensive medical intervention, 12-step-based treatment alone may be an effective strategy. That being said, for many, a more comprehensive intervention is needed regardless.