Book Review: Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide to Enhancing Recovery by Jamie Marich, PhD

In her first job, as a young addictions counselor, author Jamie Marich was told “not to complicate matters” by addressing the history of trauma that she was beginning to observe in her clients. This book, both inspiring and useful to professionals, sponsors and people in recovery, is a response to her persistent questioning of the “one size fits all” approach often favored in twelve-step recovery programs. “Rigid adherence of the disease model of addiction and near-fundamentalist adherence to Twelve-Step philosophies can hurt more clients than they can help,” says Marich. Although she incorporates the twelve-step approach in addictions treatment, where she feels it is rigid and risks causing harm, she offers an adjunct model. This model includes building a safe container in the therapeutic relationship, providing self-soothing tools like breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, and when the client has sufficient sobriety, addressing the trauma in a body-oriented modality like the bilateral stimulation inherent in EMDR.

In particular, Marich advocates a trauma-sensitive approach to steps four and five. She finds the self-assessment of taking a moral inventory in step four and then admitting our wrongs when applied without trauma-sensitivity in step five can further injure an individual in recovery with a history of trauma who is already carrying a heavy sense of shame. Most victims of sexual trauma blame themselves, taking on responsibility for their abuse. Steps four and five can further perpetuate feelings of unworthiness, and, as Marich points out in a case study, this can be the place when working the steps that well-intentioned individuals consistently relapse. When you believe you are responsible for the abuse, the moral inventory is too painful to bear.

Marich provides an easy user’s overview of the psycho-neuro-biology involved in trauma. In the chapter called “Trauma 101,” she makes it clear that emotional wounds need to be treated and that when left untreated, just like a physical wound, they only get worse. We self-medicate to diminish the pain.

There is much to recommend this book for those in recovery and for professionals working in the addictions field. The narrative is rich with stories about clients in recovery, written from the passionate point of view of one who knows the territory and has become a leader in the field. Marich includes relevant research, theory, case studies, along with numerous mind-body resources, and exercises and self-inquiry questions for both individuals in recovery and the professionals who serve them.


To order a copy of this wonderful book please visit:

For a LifeForce Yoga healing practice for trauma I recommend the Yoga Nidra CD.  You can hear a sample and purchase your copy here.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Trauma and the Twelve Steps: A Complete Guide to Enhancing Recovery by Jamie Marich, PhD”

  1. Diane Cameron says:

    When I read Amy’s review of this book I felt a deep “Oh” and “at last”. So glad to see this book and this topic and open discussion of trauma and 12 steps. Its the heartbreak of watching people relapse and so often under that is some form of trauma.

    Then reading Vickie’s comment I had one of those moments of someone telling my story. All so struggles with low self esteem, working so hard to prove myself, fear of the not good enough. Thank you so much!

  2. Jamie Marich says:

    Thank you for your kind words!!! Please check out our website too at There are a lot of free yoga-related and trauma-related resources there that you can pass along to people who may benefit. Blessings, Jamie Marich (author)

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up for our Research Newsletter


What People Say

“I came hoping to learn to move past some of the obstacles blocking my creativity. Over the course of this weekend, I feel I’ve gained a certain measure of faith in myself and in my ability to change. I also had some realizations that I believe will be very helpful to me. I feel encouraged. Both the content and presentation of this program were so well-thought out that I can’t think of any way to improve it.” — Andrea Gollin, writer & editor, Miami, FL
“I gained tools for working with my own depression and with my clients’ depressions.” — Robert Sgona, LCSW, RYT, psychotherapist, Yoga teacher, Camden, ME.
“I have gained a softer heart, more receptive mind, and tools to enrich both personal and professional aspects of my life.” – Regina Trailweaver, LICSW, clinical social worker, Hancock, VT.
“Yoga Skills for Therapists is the ideal resource for those who want to bring yoga practices into psychotherapy or healthcare. Weintraub, a leader in the field of yoga therapy, offers evidence-based, easy-to-introduce strategies for managing anxiety, improving mood, and relieving suffering. Helpful clinical insights and case examples emphasize safety, trust, and skillful adaptation to the individual, making it easy to apply the wisdom of yoga effectively in the therapeutic context.” — Kelly McGonigal, PhD, author, Yoga for Pain Relief, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapy
“I have been reminded that I am not on this path alone, that others are sharing the journey that sometimes seems so difficult. I have also been reminded of the importance of daily practice and I will do that. The whole program has been an incredible experience for me. Thank you!” — Lorraine Plauth, retired teacher, Voorheesville, NY
“Giving my clients a strategy and permission to quiet their minds and rebalance the sympathetic nervous system has been very beneficial to them and in our work together.” — Sue Dilsworth, PhD, RYT 200, LFYP, Allendale, MI
“I utilize the LFY techniques in both a class room setting and one-on-one environment. The skills have infused my teachings with compassion, mindfulness, and awareness.” — Kat Larsen, CYT, LFYP
“Words do not do justice to all that I learned. This workshop changed my life!” — Jen Nolan, Teacher, Cortland, NY
“I learned lots of ways to reduce the anxiety and depression of my patients and myself.” – Aviva Sinvany-Nubel, PhD, APN, CNSC, RN, psychotherapist, Bridgewater, N.J.
“I have gained an incredible opening and clearing of old obstructions. I hope to return to my life and fill this opening with things I love to do and that give me joy!” — Lisa Shine, administrative assistant, Ballston Lake, NY
“This workshop has changed so much — my self-image and my life. My own heart’s desire is 100% clear. I gained tools to help myself and others to live life fully.” — Marcia Siegel, Yoga teacher, therapist, Carlsbad, CA.
“I began a fantasy during the meditation exercise... almost as if I’d been there. It’s now an on-going work of fiction.” — Serian Strauss, Tanzania
“I have found the LFYP training to be incredibly useful in giving people specific tools to use in maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance, and further opening their intuitive abilities.” — Nancy Windheart, RYT-200, LFYP, Reiki Master, Animal communication teacher, Prescott, AZ
“I feel profoundly transformed, both physically and emotionally. The connection between mind, body and spirit was clearly evident to me, but revealed to me through this workshop as an integrally vital link to overall health.” — Nadine Richardson, program manager at rehab agency, Monroe, CT
“My personal practice will change, as well as my yoga classes. I have a better understanding of yoga!” — Andrea Gattuso, RYT, Yoga Teacher, Hackettstown, N.J.
I absolutely love this stuff! I have been using it with my clients and I am just finding it to be so incredibly helpful. There seriously something for everything. Although I am not as skilled as I hope to be someday, even at my level of training I’m finding that I am beginning to figure out what to do. It just blows my mind! - Christine Brudnicki, MS, LPC
“My patients can now have the same effects as many medications without having to actually take medication!” — Deborah Lubetkin, PSY.D, LFYP, West Caldwell, NJ
“I have found the pranayama (breathing practices) especially easy to introduce in a clinical setting. Some people have benefited quickly in unexpected and transformative ways.” — Liz Brenner, LICSW, LFYP, Watertown, MA
“This workshop helped me rededicate my energies and begin to work through some of the blocks I’ve felt creatively.” — Steve Mark, college professor, New Haven, CT
“This program changed my life in a significant way. It helped me connect with the spirit which is something you can’t get from psychotherapy and medication.” – G. W., artist, Pittsburgh, PA
“A client who returned said, "When I came before, you helped me understand and get where I wanted to go. Now you show me yoga practices I use to help myself understand and get where I want to go.” — Sherry Rubin, LCSW, BCD, LFYP, Downingtown, PA
“My life is already changed! I will use the tools I learned in my own practice and in my work. I feel safe and seen.” — Susan Andrea Weiner, MA, teacher/expressive arts facilitator, El Cerrito, CA.
“I integrate strategies like mantra tones and pranayama, but above all I invite myself and those I teach to cultivate svadhyaya, to practice self-observation without judgment.” — Barbara Sherman, RYT 200, LFYP, Tucson, AZ
“I gained perspective of who I am in the world and this will change my life significantly.” — Mary Ford, artist, Southport, CT
Scroll to Top