Step programs refers to recovery programs in the Alcoholics Anonymous tradition. Although these programs are distinctly organized, they share a spiritual emphasis and similar recovery steps (e.g., AA, NA, Cocaine Anonymous). Spirituality is broadly defined in this research paper without respect to religious constructions. As within AA, spirituality is left to the individual to name and define (Step 3: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him" The Twelve Steps for Everyone, 1975, p. 15). For clarity of communication, an adaptation of the three dimensions of spirituality outlined in Brown et al. (1988) will be used. Brown used the following spiritual dimensions, each operationally grounded in behavior: relationship with others, relationship to self, and relationship with a higher power. Basic to these three dimensions is a sense of connection with self and other-than-self, and behaviors that reinforce this felt connection.
The felt relationship with a higher power is most troublesome for behavioral scientists.
A further operationalization of this relational concept can occur by defining higher power as anything or anyone who is viewed as transcendent: a felt connection to others (e.g., people and animals); to nature (e.g., the ocean, mountains, trees, rocks); or to the metaphysical (e.g., God). For some, spirituality is the metaphysical as embodied in others and in nature. Central to these views is acceptance that humans are not complete and sufficient unto themselves but are empowered and alive in relation to some energy or substance beyond themselves.
A spiritual awakening, commonly experienced by step-program participants, is defined as the ability to think, feel, or behave differently and in a way that was not possible previously when the individual was attempting recovery without assistance (The Twelve Steps for Everyone, 1975). Although this broad interpretation of higher...