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Monkey See, Monkey Do: Social Cognitive Therapy and Sponsorship in 12 Step Programs

We are told to stick with the winners in recovery. We look for the people who stay “in the middle of the herd”, go to meetings, regularly work on themselves and have what we want in our recovery. Most often we don’t know what we want in recovery within those first six months. We know that we’d really rather not relapse, but we are still learning how to make sure that doesn’t happen, one day at a time. We’re told to ask questions, take suggestions, and have a minimal amount of our own ideas, because they aren’t quite sharp enough yet to be helpful. Instead, we look to others. We watch their behaviors and observe their mannerisms.

Carefully, we listen to what they see and interpret their perspective of recovery. Some people we really enjoy and are inspired by. Other people we really do not enjoy and are quite turned off by. In response to the people we find inspiring, we take on some of their recovery behaviors and start to mirror them. By watching them and observing them we learn about what they do and how they do it. Without much else knowledge we start to mirror those behaviors, like a monkey see, monkey do. After a short amount of time we find that we feel better in these behaviors and that they have helped us change and grow.

Part of this is based on social cognitive theory. In the rooms of 12-step recovery, we change and we grow according to learning from others or “old timers”. Treatment programs like our program at Enlightened Recovery Solutions includes sponsorship and guidance among program participants. Participants a phase ahead lead the way and mentor those behind them. Each client leads an example and blazes a path for those to follow and so forth.

Social cognitive therapy uses the idea of learning from behavior and environment to create change in oneself and one’s environment. At Enlightened Recovery, we have an environmental culture of nature and adventure where clients learn to work together and problem solve in real time. Learning from their mentors and peers, they are able to observe and adopt behaviors which work for recovery.


Enlightened Recovery Solutions is a 12 step focused holistic health treatment program bringing together the best of clinical and alternative healing. Our treatment programs are the perfect extended care option for men and women seeking progress and transformation.

For information on our healing programs, call 888-234-LIVE today.

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