Founded in 1976, Women for Sobriety (WFS) is the oldest of the self-empowering support groups. It originated in reaction to the concept of powerlessness that is a component of all 12-step programs. (Step 1: "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction- that our lives had become unmanageable"). Culturally speaking, women are already disempowered so "admitting we were powerless" is hardly an admission at all. Second, many women with addiction problems are also recovering from abuse, depression, domestic violence, rape, etc. Recovery from these types of problems requires women to reclaim their personal power. Therefore, "admitting powerlessness" is often counter-therapeutic.
12-step programs have a historically male culture. As such, program participants emphasize the importance of diminishing their egotistical nature. 12-step groups emphasize the importance of diminishing self-importance and selfishness. In fact, the "anonymous" nature of 12-step programs originated from concerns about members making egotistical claims to self-importance, propriety rights, etc. Women often have difficulty relating to these "character defects" as 12-step language refers to them. This is because women's difficulties often stem from the exact opposite of self-importance and selfishness. Women have greater problems with selflessness and a diminished sense of self-importance. This self-concept is problematic because it suggests a person is less deserving of basic respect and dignity. WFS counters the male culture of 12-step program with a female culture of the "New Life" Acceptance program: