Non 12 step rehab centers offer an alternative recovery program to the Alcoholics Anonymous treatment model. They do not adhere to the AA spiritually-based format.
This page contains a list of alternative recovery programs that do not use the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. They are for people who either don’t like the spiritually centered AA approach, or have tried the AA method before and were unsuccessful.
For the past 65 years, the twelve-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been the cornerstone of most treatment centers clinical philosophy. Recently, however, a few facilities choose to offer an alternative for people who have tried AA already and failed or who consider themselves atheists or agnostics.
Historically, the Steps of AA has been considered an integral part of over 95% of all drug and alcohol programs. Some treatment experts contend the steps are a great recovery support group, but they are not actually treatment. Alternative rehab programs offer a holistic, therapeutic, clinical approach. They often use an evidenced-based philosophy, which focuses primarily on cognitive behavioral therapy.
Reasons For Alternatives
- Steps do not work for everyone
- It is considered religious
- It is a merely a support group
- Have to admit “powerlessness”
- Treatment needs optional approaches
- Some don’t support medication
- Low success rate (5-10%)
Court Ruling: “People Can’t Be Ordered To Attend AA”
In several landmark cases, the federal courts have ruled AA is a form of religion. The issue has come up because traditionally the courts like to order people to attend AA meetings as part of their sentencing and probation protocol. The issue came before a federal court when an atheist claimed he should not have to go to AA because he did not believe in God. After considering the facts, the courts agreed that AA was too much like a religious organization and therefore, someone who did not believe in their spiritual approach, should not be ordered to attend.
- Saying A.A. Is Religious, Court Lets Inmate Skip It (NY Times article)
Federal courts have ruled inmates, parolees, and probationers cannot be ordered to attend AA. Though AA itself was not deemed a religion, it was ruled that it contained enough religious components to make forced attendance at AA meetings a violation of the First Amendment.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals has previously stated a parolee who was ordered to attend AA has grounds to sue the parole department.
Alternative Support Programs
The following is a list of non 12 step based support programs available for people who want to stop using drugs and alcohol and need a place for support that is not 12 step oriented.
There are several alternative programs that do use the twelve-step approach to recovery. Perhaps the largest and best known is S.M.A.R.T. Recovery. SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training. Founded in 1994, SMART Recovery uses primarily CBT and other therapies to help people understand and change the way they think, feel, react and behave.
Founded in 1986 by Jack Trimpey, Rational Recovery® offers another alternative method to AA. Rational Recovery is based on the logic the addict can obtain permanent, planned abstinence, without AA. At the same time, the addict has a strong desire to continue to use. An addict and or alcoholic strongly belief their substance of choice self-medicates various psychological conditions including but not limited to depression and anxiety.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
James Christopher started SOS in 1986 in Hollywood, California. Secular Organizations for Sobriety is an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Secular Organizations for Sobriety members can attend AA meetings if they wish. However, Secular Organizations for Sobriety does not believe a spiritual component or surrendering to God is required to be successful.
Women For Sobriety (WFS)
Women For Sobriety was founded by Jean Kirkpatrick, a sociologist, in 1976. Women For Sobriety allows only women to attend meetings, which focus on female issues in recovery. It is not a necessarily a feminist movement.
Moderation Management (MM) was founded by Audrey Kishline, in 1994. Moderation Management (https://www.moderation.org/) is designed for alcohol drinkers to sustain a moderate level of alcohol consumption.
Refuge Recovery is a mindfulness-based addiction recovery community that practices and utilizes Buddhist philosophy as the foundation of the recovery process.
Harvard Professor Debunks “Bad Science” Behind AA
Dr. Lance Dodes, is a training and supervising analyst emeritus with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society Institute. He is a retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of, “The Sober Truth” debunks the Bad Science Behind AA Programs and the Rehab Industry.” In his recent book, Dr. Dodes claims AA has only a 5 – 10% success rate. He goes on to state the AA program has no psychological therapeutic component, by today’s standards. Dr. Dodes says the federal government spends millions of dollars on funding treatment programs that are AA-based and therefore “religious” and this is a violation of the First Amendment.
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