12 Step Facilitators guidelines

12 Steps Facilitation


6- 12 Step Facilitators Guidelines


This page provides some 12 Step facilitators guidelines that will help keep you unified as a team of facilitators. In addition some guidelines are offered to help you conduct your 12 Step facilitation group more effectively.


  • Suggestions on how to work effectively as a team
  • Suggestions on how to conduct your group effectively


Conducting an effective 12 Step group means knowing what your goals and responsibilities are as facilitators. This means establishing guidelines among yourselves on how to work as a team and how to best conduct your group to achieve its objectives. When you are clear about your responsibilities and limitations, you are better able to keep your group focused and productive. The point is you want to avoid taking on more than you can handle or assuming responsibility for tasks that fall outside your roles as facilitators. Establishing guidelines will help you function better as a team as you lead your group through the 12 Steps systematically within a specific time frame.


  • Below are guidelines designed to help you work effectively together to conduct a successful 12 Steps group.
  • Note that these are only suggestions. You are free to amend them in any way you like to make them conform to your own needs, preferences and criteria using the Word version of this page in: 12 Step Group Worksheets


12 Step Facilitators guidelines - Suggestions for group facilitators


Suggestions on how to work effectively as a team

  • Establish the method and the format that you will use in taking your group through the 12 Steps — and stick with it. Do not make changes in your approach half way through the course since this can lead to confusion.
  • Treat your 12 Step group like a classroom with you as teachers sharing your knowledge of the 12 Steps of a particular Fellowship – talking about how to work them based on your experience.
  • Meet each other about 30 minutes before each session for a coffee to review and confirm what you will be covering that session.
  • Start and finish your 12 Step group at the designated times.
  • When conducting your group, keep your remarks short and to the point.
  • Don’t let the group get out of control or diverted from its objective. It may be a good idea to remind your group of its Rules by reading them out loud every couple of weeks.
  • Don’t air any disagreements in front of your group. For instance, don’t argue, put each other down or contradict one another in front of the group. Such behavior will only discourage group participants. If there are differences of opinion among you, discuss them outside the 12 Step group.
  • It is not your responsibility to convince group members to work their 12 Steps. If any member is defiant or argumentative, remind them that you are simply sharing your experience of the Steps, and that they have the choice to leave or find their own answers. At the same time, have the humility and the respect to allow each member their own experience of the Steps and journey towards recovery.
  • When speaking to the group, be in the habit of framing your remarks with: “My experience is”. We are simply facilitators, not gurus or authorities on the Steps.  Neither do we possess knowledge of recovery from every type of addiction. We share our experience of dealing with the addiction that afflicted us. Using that experience, we try to guide others by sharing how working the Steps of our Fellowship helped us find recovery.
  • Do not feel obliged to have all the answers to group participants’ questions. You are not god. If you do not have first-hand experience on a subject under discussion in the group, simply state you do not have any experience of it and ask one of your co-facilitators to share his or her experience. You may even ask the group member to search for the answer himself or herself and share it with the group the following session.
  • Remind yourselves that as facilitators you are simply sharing your experience of the 12 Steps in a group setting and offering guidance. You are not 12 Step gurus, nor do you practice a perfect program. Do not allow pride or ego to rob you of working your own program with humility.
  • Make sure you do not act like a therapist, a doctor, a professional, a caretaker or a family member. Despite any professional background you may have, or how passionate you may be about your Step Study Group, remember as facilitators your are solely there to guide others through the 12 Steps as you have experienced them. Getting involved emotionally or any other way will confuse your group members and ultimately lead to disappointment or resentments.
  • Avoid assuming responsibilities that fall outside your role as a facilitator guiding others through the 12 Steps. Being a facilitator is a big enough task – and one that is critical to saving lives. Trying to be everything or do everything for your group members can divert you from your primary goal and wear you out. Remember that it is the group member’s responsibility to put in the work – and take the actions required for their recovery. Equally it is their right to quit the Step Study Group if they wish to.  Do not take it personally or allow it to dampen your enthusiasm.
  • Be comfortable with the idea that some group participants may not like you personally. Remind yourselves that this is not about your ego or expectations of praise and prestige. Remind yourselves that you are facilitating a Step Study Group as part of your 12th Step work and the maintenance of your own recovery – that you are helping others to help yourselves.
  • Do not try to sponsor all group members. Sponsorship is a different process to facilitating a 12 Step group. A sponsor has the time and energy to support an addict through their ups and downs of recovery.  As facilitators, you are there to pass on your experience of the Steps to a group of fellow addicts in a classroom setting. Your role is similar to that of a teacher passing on your knowledge and experience, while leaving your pupils to have their own journey. From the onset you need to highly recommend to group participants that they get a sponsor, if they don’t already have one. Yet, very likely one main reason people have joined your Step Study Group is because they do not have sponsors with whom to work their Steps. For this reasons you need to come up with a way for these participants to work Steps 5 and Step 8. The solution is that you highly recommend from the beginning that group participants buddy up with one another — that is that they find another group member they can team up with and act as co-sponsors. Such members can share their Step 5 with one another and use each other’s support and guidance to work through their amends list in Step 8. Alternatively, you as facilitators can support a couple of your group members through these two Steps or hook them up with Fellowship members outside the Step Study Group who are willing to act in this role. But you have to be careful not to take on the responsibility of acting as sponsor to all group members. If you are willing, you can do so for a couple of them, but be sure it does not burden your own recovery, nor hurt your effectiveness as a facilitator.
  • Be gentle and compassionate with your Step Study Group members. Remind yourself of the early days when you lacked working knowledge and experience of the program.
  • Don’t forget to practice Step 3 — to hand your will over to the care of God during this process. This will help you avoid assuming other people’s burdens or getting emotionally involved. Remember the principle of doing the work and leaving the results to your God.
  • Allow facilitation to be a learning and enlightening experience for you. Be humble, and so be willing and open-minded to learn from your group participants. The quality of your own recovery will greatly benefit as a result. Being a facilitator is a great experience and a real privilege.


Suggestions on how to conduct your group effectively

  • A 12 Step group is not bound by any rules or Fellowship Traditions, so you are free to conduct your group pretty much however you like, using whatever material or source has helped you work your Steps. Ultimately conducting a 12 Step group is about your 12th step work and it boils down to sharing your experience, strength and hope to carry the message of recovery to other addicts. So be sure to let your group know that the way you are guiding them through the 12 Steps is purely based on your personal experience — that it is not set in stone or the only way.
  • Let your group members know that you will be respectful of their own interpretation and experience of the Steps and that you do not demand that anyone follow your recovery path. The principles of a 12 Step group are similar to that of the Fellowship – namely, they are based on suggestions and do not claim a monopoly on how to work a perfect program.
  • Remind your group of the purpose of the 12 Step group, namely that we suffer from a life-threatening disease and are here to work the Steps to find a solution and learn a new way of life. When the group is reminded of the importance of working the Steps, they are more likely to stay focused on the solution and not allow trivial issues or personality conflicts to distract them. There is also less likelihood for them to sabotage their recovery by being argumentative or judgmental towards others.
  • Remind group members of the commitment they have made to make recovery their number one priority and their willingness to go to any length. In this frame of mind,  participants will be motivated to take the actions required to work the Steps.
  • Let your group members know your role as facilitators is to guide them through the 12 Steps of a particular Fellowship by sharing your strength, hope and experience — that is all. Make clear to the group that it is not your responsibility to convince or pressure anyone to work their Steps. This includes spelling out your limitations and, in general, explaining what you can and cannot do – including not being able to act as personal sponsors to each of them.
  • Remind your group members that those who do not have a sponsor need to buddy up with one another for the duration of the 12 Step group. Explain that those without a sponsor will need a buddy in the group with whom to share their Steps 5 and 8.
  • Remind them that the 12 Step group is like a classroom and not a Fellowship meeting — and that there are rules to be observed. For example, if a group member persistently disturbs the unity and the objective of the group, the Attendance facilitator will have to ask him or her to leave. This is because pursuing the objective of the 12 Step group takes precedence over individual participants.
  • Remind participants that the 12 Step group is not a social gathering, nor a place to make best friends. We may not all like one another but so long as we keep our focus on learning and working the Steps, we can put any personality differences aside and work together as a team. Based on this principle there is less chance for argument or conflict deterring a member from continuing with the course.
  • Remind them that the 12 Step group has one primary objective that it needs to achieve within a specific time frame. It therefore has to work on a rigid schedule, allocating each session to studying and working on a particular Step. The facilitators need to run the sessions so as to be able to cover the material in the time allowed. And questions or discussion of any sort are permissible only if there is time enough after the main work of the session is completed.
  • Remind group participants that the 12 Step group is not a discussion or sharing meeting. That in order for the Step Study Group to achieve its objectives, facilitators will ask group participants to hold any comments or questions until after the session, and then they can talk with one of the facilitators — or have a discussion with other participants.
  • Make clear to participants that the 12 Step group is not a replacement for their Fellowship meetings. In fact, it is recommended that group participants attend more than their usual number of meetings during the course of the group. Doing so will help them process what they are learning about the Steps. Remind them that we need our Fellowship meetings, as they are the vital source of support for our recovery.
  • Remind group members that they need to keep up to date with the material being studied and any homework, so as not to hold others back. Continuous failure to do so may lead to them being dismissed.
  • Advise group members to avoid leaving their homework until the last night. Experience has shown that those who do so find themselves unable to keep up and wind up leaving the group. In addition learning and working the Steps is a process. The earlier we do the homework, the better able we are to reflect on – and experience — how that Step can work in our life.
  • Recommend for group members to meet up in informal small groups during the week to do their homework with the support of one another. This not only has the benefit of broadening their understanding of how the steps are worked, but also promotes camaraderie and encouragement to pursue the course.
  • Ask group participants to observe the 12 Traditions of all anonymous Fellowships. A Step Study Group is not affiliated with 12 Step Fellowships and should not in any way be promoted or advertised in a meeting. Certainly, you can talk with others in the Fellowship about your participation in a Step Study Group and how it is helping you, but you should do so outside the meetings.
  • Finally, every once in a while praise your group participants for their diligence and hard work. Let them know that working the Steps is the path towards learning how to live a new way of life in joy and freedom.

Question or Comment

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