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Helping others helps alcoholics stay on the road to recovery, Case Western Reserve shows
Date:1/28/2011

Participating in community service activities and helping others is not just good for the soul; it has a healing effect that helps alcoholics and other addicts become and stay sober, a researcher from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine reports.

In a review article published in the Volume 29 issue of Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, Maria E. Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine, sheds light on the role of helping in addiction recovery, using the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a prime example. She cites a growing body of research as supporting evidence.

"The research indicates that getting active in service helps alcoholics and other addicts become sober and stay sober, and suggests this approach is applicable to all treatment-seeking individuals with a desire to not drink or use drugs," Dr. Pagano says. "Helping others in the program of AA has forged a therapy based on the kinship of common suffering and has vast potential."

In her research, Dr. Pagano highlights the helper therapy principle (HTP), a concept embodied by AA, as a means of diminishing egocentrism or selfishness, a root cause of addiction. The HTP is based on the theory that, when a person helps another individual with a similar condition, they help themselves.

The principle is reflected in the stated purpose of AA, which is to help individuals "stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety." Helping other alcoholics is viewed as the foundation for the alcoholic helper to stay on the path to recovery, Dr. Pagano says in her overview of the AA program.

In addition to outlining the basis for AA-related helping, Dr. Pagano reviews the data to date that illustrates the health and mental health benefits derived from helping others. She likewise examines several empirical studies she conducted previously which show how helping others in 12-step programs of recovery help the recovering
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Contact: Jessica Studeny
jessica.studeny@case.edu
216-368-4692
Case Western Reserve University
Source:Eurekalert

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