Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
Graham_2020.pdf (2.14 MB)

A research project exploring twelve step spirituality with practical theology

Download (2.14 MB)
posted on 2023-08-30, 18:49 authored by Virginia Graham
Little has been written on the connection between the Twelve Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous and practical theology. Alcoholics Anonymous has significant Christian roots and describes itself as a spiritual programme – suggesting there could be some mutuality. The researcher explores whether Twelve Step spirituality could be better defined and understood by considering theological resources. This question was central to the researcher’s professional practice, which is focused on counselling those who work a Twelve Step programme. To answer this question, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used as it emphasises the value of experience. This was significant because the project was shaped by a theological understanding of spirituality, which emphasised the value of experience. The researcher interviewed eight recovering persons about their spiritual experiences. The interviews explored what spirituality meant, the effects of spirituality in daily life and how a spiritual programme was developed. Findings revealed that spiritual resources in the Twelve Step programme were essential to the recovery process and were supplied by the experiences of relationship within the Twelve Step fellowship. These findings were critically illuminated by the theological concepts of sin and grace. Sin assisted with a rich interpretation of the relational disconnection in the addictive process, and the relational connections created in recovery were deepened by the concept of grace. Theological resources were used to define what Twelve Step spirituality meant to the participants and how it operated in a programme of recovery; these same resources also enriched the therapeutic significance of this spirituality. These findings rejuvenated the researcher’s respect for the Twelve Steps and altered her professional practice from a more business driven role to a purely clinical one.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

Thesis name

  • Other

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Legacy posted date


Legacy creation date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Theses from Anglia Ruskin University/Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager