THE H.O.W. METHOD OF WORKING THE STEPS – Discussion on whether groups are violating the Traditions when using this method

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
I am writing to you with concern about SLAA in the U.K., and questioning whether they are breaking traditions.  In the U.K. there are many meetings that follow a structured way of working the steps known as the H.O.W. program. This is featured on the SLAA U.K. website, and seems to dominate much of the U.K. fellowship.

They have their own literature and documents, along with their own sponsorship guidelines and meeting preamble.  http://www.slaauk.org/useful-resources/what-is-slaa-how/

Having had many years in other 12 step fellowships, I’ve detected an almost “H.O.W. is the only way to do it” approach coming from the majority of members of SLAA – including a lack of sponsors doing it any other way – and people choosing to do it other ways being told that they “don’t have a program”.

Therefore it seems to be detracting from other ways to work the steps, the program as it was designed by Bill W – and my concern is that this approach is off-putting for people who wish to work the steps in other ways.

I understand that autonomy of groups is paramount, but this does seem to be a matter affecting SLAA as a whole by the way that the message is being carried to newcomers and how they are lead to believe H.O.W. is the only way.


Each Group is autonomous. They are free to create parameters for their meeting that creates a specialized meeting as long as there is no other affiliation per Tradition 2 “Any two or more persons gathered together for mutual aid in recovering from sex and love addiction may call themselves an S.L.A.A. group, provided that as a group they have no other affiliation.”

If there are addicts in the area that would benefit from a meeting but do not like the H.O.W. format, they could always start a new meeting that follows the SLAA format without using or referencing HOW.

In the past there had been some concerns from FWS that the H.O.W. documents infringed on FWS conference approved documents, the draft documents and the H.O.W. website reflect a compromise between FWS and the H.O.W. format that does not infringe on conference approved documents.

There is a feeling among the committee that H.O.W. is a structured program some addicts need the structure, while others are repelled by it.

Our experience with H.O.W. members seems to contradict the premise of the person posing this question, they all seem to recognize that H.O.W. is a choice and there are many ways to work SLAA recovery.

From the “What is S.L.A.A. H.O.W.?” draft literature, the official H.O.W. stance recognizes that H.O.W. is a choice:

S.L.A.A. H.O.W. IS A CHOICE

The H.O.W. way of working the S.L.A.A. program is a choice. There is no requirement to work the S.L.A.A. program the H.O.W. way, it is merely a choice for those who wish to and who find that it helps them.

However, having decided to work the S.L.A.A. program the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. way sponsees are required to do this in a certain structured way. This way is described here.

All S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meetings are open to those who are working the program the non H.O.W. way. Also, people using the S.L.A.A. H.O.W. approach do not have to only attend S.L.A.A. H.O.W. meetings.

In the past the FWS BOT raised an issue with H.O.W. meetings in the U.K., these meetings where using H.O.W. literature that resulted in copyright violations. The current H.O.W. draft literature was developed to avoid these copyright issues, and while not conference approved, they have been reviewed by the BOT and do not violate FWS copyrights. It may be that some meetings are still using old HOW literature. These meetings should be made aware of the current H.O.W. literature and stop violating FWS copyrights.

The H.O.W. program may operate differently in some areas of the U.K. and not be as open to other ways to work the program.

One member of the committee is part of another fellowship that had a H.O.W. faction, eventually the schism between the H.O.W. faction and the original group was so great that the H.O.W. faction split from the original group and formed their own fellowship. In this case it appears that H.O.W. is trying to work within the FWS/SLAA framework and desires to remain a part of SLAA.

Should look at the circumstances of this complaint, there are always the “Holy Rollers” who believe that the way they worked the steps is the only legitimate way to work the steps. Perhaps the person submitting this ran into one or more of these types, if so they are not adhering to the principals of the H.O.W. program. It may be that this is a case of personality over principles.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.