An Illustrated Guide to the 12 Steps of AA

ImageStep 1 “I admitted that my life had become unmanageable”

The 12 steps of AA can be a daunting task to work through, and some stay on the same step for months or even years. For some people it may feel like they will never finish the steps. This directive is a way to encourage these people and to help others explore what the steps mean to them. For those who have not made it to certain steps, drawing what that step looks like to them can be a helpful future projection.

Materials: Paper, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, chalk pastels etc.

Directive: This is a 12 week project, however if you don’t have that much time, have your client draw the step they are currently on, if they aren’t on any step they can start with step 1. Before you begin, write on a dry erase board or chalk board the step the group will be drawing so they can reference is throughout the session.

Be sure to have everyone write their name, date and step on the back so you can keep them all organized. You can start by saying something like, “Today we are going to be exploring what the 12 steps of AA mean to you. I know that perhaps not everyone here is working the steps, and if you are you may not be on this step but let’s take some time to draw what this step would look like in your life”. If they have trouble starting, suggest that they pick a color that represents that step to them, if they are on any step after 1, suggest that they continue whatever theme they created in the first step.

Allow 30 minutes for art making and save the last 15 minutes for processing for a total time of 45 minutes.

Anything a client makes in an art therapy session is their property so if they insist on taking the art with them they can. However, for this project try to encourage them to leave the art work so you can collect all 12 steps and put them in a presentation cover so they can have their own “Illustrated Guide to the 12 Steps”.

Here are some examples of how people in recovery interpreted the steps…


Step 2

step 3

Step 3


Step 4

Step 6

Step 6


This project was inspired by the book God Grant Me The Laughter: A Treasury of 12 step humor.

Another helpful read for this project and all step work is Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. Both books are anonymously written and can be found online.


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