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Opinion & Essays - Dec, 1993 Issue 


Lon - Thanks so much for your leads. I'm very happy that H_____ is removed from her peer network for an extended time.
DJ, California
Jerry Dorsman's critique of my article on 12 Step/Whole Child programs (Letters, Issue #24, October, 1993), makes several important points, but is potentially misleading in other areas.

I agree that Alcoholics Anonymous is less than perfect, and like any medicine it needs to be applied with caution and common sense. It was initially designed for middle aged white men, and adaptation is necessary when teens become involved. Also I would never recommend young teens to become involved without the support of a responsible mentor, and prefer to see support from professionals who understand the program well.

On the other hand, some of Mr. Dorsman's information is simply wrong, and some is badly out of context. For example, in 1993, AA membership in NOT primarily middle aged white men, and middle aged white men are a rarity at most other 12 Step fellowships, such as NA, OA, etc. Go to a public meeting and see for yourself. I would be surprised to see more than 1/3 of any AA meeting being middle aged white men, unless it was a special interest group within AA, especially attractive to middle aged white men.

Since Mr. Dorsman is vague on his source of the 11% success figure, I have no way to check its accuracy, but it clearly does not apply to the relevant population at issue in my article: Teens supported in 12 step work, by a competent treatment or personal growth program. To introduce the 11% statistic in this context is misleading at best.

As to AA's supposed danger, I suppose we could, with extensive research, find isolated instances of deaths in well run kindergartens, but that doesn't prove that kindergartens are generally dangerous. Certainly any teen addict should be professionally screened for suicide risk, and AA has never claimed to remedy such risk directly nor in the short term. Again, Mr. Dorsman is out of the context of the situation at issue: teens in a program with demonstrated competence to address simultaneous risks.

I have not read Mr. Dorsman's book, but if he has a cost-effective approach which addresses addiction as it is understood in contemporary research, I would welcome its introduction as an alternative to 12 step work. His implication that short term or intermediate term group therapy is an acceptable alternative by itself causes me some concern, as that view is not supported by research (although group work does play a significant part in combination with other interventions in all respected approaches).

My two points were that teens who are addicted need special attention for addiction issues, and far too many schools and programs which do an excellent job with purely behavioral issues are not even bothering to raise the question of addiction. In making those points I used the example of the CEDU School which chose to address those two needs and happened to use AA as one tool, apparently with proper safeguards. The tragic results of neglecting my two points involve many more deaths than one isolated case in Minneapolis. Addressing these concerns should not be optional.
- Thomas J. Croke, Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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