Twelve Steps and Depression – Is there a Program for That?

 April 25, 2019

One of the characters in Beautiful Questions, book six of my Dancing through Life series, suffers from clinical depression. I researched depression, the many different treatments, but as I wrote the book, it occurred to me that an important part of healing may entail having a support group of others in the same situation. I also found myself wondering, is there a twelve step program for treating depression? Can such a program help a person who is depressed? After all, the twelve steps is a spiritual based program. Depression has a spiritual component as well. And so, I ask, Twelve Steps and Depression – is there a program for that?

Twelve Steps and Depression

When I researched twelve steps and depression, all I found was references to depression suffered by many alcoholics and addicts, no reference to a twelve step program designed to help those suffering from depression. Why not?

Twelves steps begins with an admittance that your life is out of control and the realization that you are powerless on your own to deal with your problem. This is followed by the recognition of the need to surrender to a higher power.

From my studies of clinical depression, it seems to me that those same principles apply. There are many treatments, such as drug therapy, electro-shook therapy, talk therapy, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet. I am not saying to stop any of these. I am suggesting that these could be used alongside of a twelve step program.

Giving God a Chance

Some with resistant chronic depression may have tried all of these treatments and still find themselves slipping into the darkness of depression. Their lives may be out of control. They are powerless before their depression. They may have tried everything and are still suffering. Why not try God?

I’m not saying, have faith, trust in God and everything will get better. I’m not saying that depression is a sign of a lack of faith. There are people of great faith who still experience depression and feel like failures because of it. They don’t need anyone dumping on them or adding to their depression by telling them to pray and it will get better.

Surrender – God’s Terms not Our Terms

Key to the twelve steps is surrender. The alcoholic may have tried everything in their power to stop. They may have turned to God, but on their own terms. Admitting they are powerless and surrendering to God means it’s on God’s terms, not theirs. It doesn’t mean they give it all to God and don’t have to work at it. No, it’s hard work. But they have a support group to help them and they have God.

In the same way, recognizing that you are powerless before your depression and surrendering to God doesn’t absolve you from responsibility to do whatever it takes to get better. It does mean you recognize you can’t do it on your own. So, you keep taking your meds, keep seeing your counselor, exercise, eat healthy, work on changing negative thinking patterns, do all that you need to do to get better, then place it all in God’s hands and reach out to others.

Twelve Steps and Depression – it makes sense to me. What do you think? Do you think it would work? I would love to hear from you.


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