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The role of AA sponsors: a pilot study.

Whelan PJ, Marshall EJ, Ball DM, Humphreys K. The role of AA sponsors: a pilot study. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2009 Jul 1; 44(4):416-22.

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AIMS: The aim of this study was to explore the roles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsors and to describe the characteristics of a sample of sponsors. METHODS: Twenty-eight AA sponsors, recruited using a purposive sampling method, were administered an unstructured qualitative interview and standardized questionnaires. The measurements included: a content analysis of sponsors'' responses; Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire-Community version (SADQ-C) and Alcoholics Anonymous Affiliation Scale (AAAS). RESULTS: Sample characteristics were as follows: the median length of AA attendance was 9.5 years (range 5-28); the median length of sobriety was 11 years (range 4.5-28); the median number of sponsees per sponsor was 1 but there was a wide range (0-17, interquartile range 3.75); and the sponsors were highly affiliated to AA (median AAAS score 8.75, range 5.5-8.75, maximum possible score 9). Past alcohol dependence scores were surprisingly low: 5 (18%) sponsors had mild, 14 (50%) moderate and 9 (32%) severe dependence according to the SADQ-C (median 26.5, range 11-56). Sponsorship roles were as follows: 16 roles were identified through the initial content analysis. These were distilled into three super-ordinate roles through a thematic analysis: (1) encouraging sponsees to work the programme of AA (doing the 12 steps and engaging in AA activity); (2) support (regular contact, emotional support and practical support); and (3) carrying the message of AA (sharing sponsor''s personal experience of recovery with sponsees). CONCLUSIONS: The roles identified broadly corresponded with the AA literature delineating the duties of a sponsor. This non-random sample of sponsors was highly engaged in AA activity but only had a past history of moderate alcohol dependence.

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