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The 12 Steps – America’s Most Common Addiction Treatment Model

12 Step Alternatives

The 12-Step philosophy is deeply rooted in the addiction recovery movement across the U.S. In fact, most rehabilitation facilities in the United States focus solely on the 12-Step model of recovery. At AToN Centers, we are proud to offer a non-12-Step approach to addiction treatment. (We’ll talk more about this in a moment.)

The 12-Step methodology is based on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization that was founded in 1935 for people who were addicted to alcohol. Since then, there have been a number of 12 Step “spin-offs” like Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, and Cocaine Anonymous.

The core belief of 12-Step recovery is that addiction is a lifelong disease that can only be arrested through the application of spiritual principals found in the 12 Steps and with regular meeting attendance.

What is 12 Step Recovery?

Essentially, the basis for the 12-Step viewpoint is that addicted people are powerless over their disease. They must surrender to (and rely upon) a higher power in order to stay sober. This higher power could be God, nature, the universe, or the meetings at whatever 12 Step program they are attending.

It is suggested that members work the steps with a sponsor, attend regular meetings, and ultimately sponsor other people. Members of a 12-Step program are told they should attend meetings for the rest of their lives to avoid a relapse.

What are the Drawbacks to 12 Step Recovery?

There is no question that programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have helped many people experience freedom from addiction and find a new way to live. At AToN Centers, we provide an integrated overview of the 12 Steps to our clients, but it is not our central focus. We also make 12-Step meetings readily available.

We take this approach because we understand that 12-Step programs are not for everyone. There are a number of reasons for this.

  • First, the 12-Steps claim to offer a spiritual solution. God is mentioned in the steps and spoken about frequently at meetings, although everyone is afforded the freedom to have a relationship with a God of their own understanding. Many people are turned off by the “God piece” and prefer a more practical and pragmatic way to approach addiction treatment. I would reword this to something like “an approach that does not have a religious aspect.”
  • Also, regular meeting attendance is strongly encouraged. For life. There is no graduating or completing a 12-Step program. Members are told they will relapse if they do not attend meetings and continue to work the steps and sponsor others. It is suggested that members work the 12 Steps over and over in their recovery. For life. I worry that this bullet point feels a little negative. I’m not sure how to reword it though.
  • Additionally, many people struggle tremendously with the disease concept. Those in 12 Step recovery are told they have a disease for which there is no known cure. The only way to arrest this disease is daily commitment to living the spiritual principles found in the 12 Steps.
  • Finally, there is no empirical data that proves that 12 Step recovery actually works and almost no research on the effectiveness of this treatment model. Actually, 12 Step IS considered an evidence based treatment, so we would need to remove this portion. Many people who attend A.A. or N.A. continue to experience severe relapses while attending meetings or end up leaving the program altogether because it does not work for them.

If you are not keen on the idea of 12-Step recovery, you are not alone. The good news? This is not the only way to learn how to live and appreciate a sober lifestyle.

My feedback about the above is that it has a slightly anti-12 Step slant, I’m not sure how to resolve that.

What is the Alternative to 12 Step Recovery in Addiction Treatment?

At AToN Centers, offer a number of alternatives to 12 Step. One alternative is SMART Recovery. We believe this ~~is the best~~ another way to equip our clients with the tools they need to stop the cycle of addiction, stay sober, and enjoy a life without drugs or alcohol.

In our estimation, SMART Recovery has proven to be one of the best available alternative to 12-Step Recovery programs. It promotes a holistic approach to changing addictive behaviors; one that allows participants to evolve past their own defeating thoughts. This allows them to embrace positive changes in their lives. SMART Recovery is a program of total abstinence.

While you can certainly believe in a higher power in SMART Recovery, God is not a requirement to participate in the program. ~~mentioned anywhere in the program.~~ Also, meetings are made available online and throughout the country for additional support, but they are not a requirement. Those who are working the SMART Recovery program can attend meetings or not. It is entirely up to them.

How Does SMART Recovery Work?

SMART Recovery is based on a 4-Point Program:

  1. Building and Maintaining Motivation: Finding motivation to remain abstinent from drugs and alcohol
  2. Coping with Urges: SMART Recovery gives you the tools you need to cope with triggers that cause cravings
  3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors: Implementing a cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) motivates behavior modification
  4. Living a Balanced Life: Learning healthy strategies that promote self-esteem

At AToN Centers, we teach clients the 4-Point program and work straight out of the SMART Recovery handbook during our addiction treatment program. Of course, we also include evidence-based treatment approaches like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), individual therapy, and group counseling.

Additional 12-Step Alternatives

SMART Recovery is the most well-established 12-Step alternative in the recovery community. It has a proven program of success for participants and is embraced by those who have worked the program.

There are other alternatives to the 12-Step model, but we do not teach them here at AToN Centers. Here are some resources you might find helpful:

Women For Sobriety
SOS Sobriety
LifeRing Secular Recovery
Moderation Management

If you are ready to stop the cycle of addiction and get your life on track, contact us. We’re here to help.