Land Based Teachings and the Relationship to 12 Step Recovery

Room – Bannerman Walker Room Room, February 21st, 2023, 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm, Hyatt Regency Centre, Calgary Alberta

Speaker – Jo & Bruce Dumont

Recovery Capital Conference the alberta recovery conference

Session Description

What are the complementary components of Land Based Indigenous Healing Practices (eg Sacred Circle, Smudge/Cleansing, Elder advice) and a majority of 12-step programs (eg Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous) that, when amalgamated as a dual process, produce optimal addiction treatment/healing outcomes? Even a cursory view of the literature highlights the fundamental role of spirituality in Indigenous and 12-step practices. Fijal & Beagan (2019) writing on the value of including Indigenous healing practices within the Canadian health care system described the person “…as having physical, cognitive, and effective components, with Spirituality at the core” (p227).

Addressing the importance of land to indigenous peoples, Fijal & Beagan noted it is “… interconnected with Spirituality since it is fundamental to Indigenous knowledge” (p226). Jennifer Redvers (2020) commenting on the important relationship of land to traditional healing and spirituality wrote, “…we believe in it so much, because going back there [to traditional land location] brought, what we hear people saying, it brought a sense of belonging” (p97).

There is little debate as to the role of Spirituality within 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous which is a widely available empirically supported (Kelly & Arby, 2021) approach that is best described as a “…Spiritually based intervention” (Beraldo et al, 2019, p26). At an individual level, 12-step recovery can and does encompass a religious component. However, it is more aligned with the personal and subjective understanding and expression of Indigenous practices in that it is “…more sensitive to earthly concerns than heavenly hopes” (Jordan, 2019, p204).

Additionally, both 12-step practice and Indigenous cultural practices draw on the concept of a deity for spiritual guidance that has been respectively referred to as a Higher Power and The Creator. The counterpart of the Indigenous Elder, who provides sage counsel, is the 12-step Sponsor who provides experiential support to new members. Another commonality is the 12-step narrative (McInerney & Cross, 2021) and Indigenous storytelling (Datta, 2018) both inherent components for optimal outcomes within each approach. This synopsis provides an overview of just a few of the many complementary integrations between 12-step-based Recovery and Indigenous Land Based Healing Practices.

Learning Objectives

  • Understanding the links between land-based teachings and 12-Step Recovery.
  • Practical application of land-based teaching in groups.
  • Statistical analysis of the efficacy of LBT in treatment.Y35


  • Beraldo, L. Gil, F.; Ventriglio,A.; de Andrade, A.;da Silva, A.;Torales,J.;Gonçalves, P.;Bhugra,D.; & Castaldelli-Maia, J. (n.d.). Spirituality, religiosity and addiction recovery: Current perspectives. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from Datta, R. (2017). Traditional storytelling: An effective indigenous research methodology and its implications for environmental research. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 14(1), 35–44.
  • Fijal D, Beagan BL. Indigenous perspectives on health: Integration with a Canadian model of practice. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2019;86(3):220-231. doi:10.1177/0008417419832284Jordan, J. A. (2019). Alcoholics Anonymous: A vehicle for achieving capacity for secure attachment relationships and adaptive affect regulation. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 19(3), 201–222.
  • McInerney, K & Cross, A (2021) A Phenomenological Study: Exploring the Meaning of Spirituality in Long-term Recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 39:3, 282-300, DOI: 10.1080/07347324.2021.1895016Redvers, J. (2020). “The land is a healer”: Perspectives on land-based healing from indigenous practitioners in Northern Canada. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 15(1), 90–107.

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