Understanding Non 12 Step Rehab Centers

Non 12 step rehab centers are important because they offer viable alternative recovery programs to AA. These are alternatives to the standard AA-based model of treatment programs, that do not use the AA spiritually-based format. Historically, the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has been considered an integral part of 95% of all drug and alcohol treatment programs. These non 12 step rehab treatment centers and recovery programs do not use the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Most are not against the AA fellowship.  Lots of people either don’t like AA or have tried it and failed.


For the past 65 years, the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been the cornerstone of most treatment centers clinical philosophy. Treatment centers have incorporated the 12-Steps into their approach to recovery. Recently, however, some facilities have started offering an alternative to this model for people who have tried it already and failed or who consider themselves atheists. Some experts are now contending the steps are a good recovery support group, but not real treatment.

Reasons For Alternative Programs

According to this recent article in Radio Boston, the treatment industry needs a new agenda.

  • It does not work for everyone
  • It is considered religious
  • It is a merely a support group
  • Admitting “powerlessness”
  • Treatment needs more options
  • Doesn’t support medication
  • 5-10% success rate

Alternative rehab programs offer a holistic, therapeutic, clinical approach. They often use an evidenced-based philosophy, which focuses primarily on cognitive behavioral therapy.

Non 12 Step Rehab Centers in the United States

Currently there are a limited number of non 12 step rehab centers in the United States. Below is a map and listing of alternative treatment centers. You can find reviews and more information about each program on the map. Click on the red marker or the menu button in the upper left-hand corner to see more information. You can find a good list of non 12 step rehab centers in the U.S. below.

These recovery programs all offer an alternative treatment model using the Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Each subscribes to the philosophy of empowerment, rather than powerlessness. All of these programs utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy and individualized counseling. Most take a more progressive, holistic approach.

Treatment Center Listings  State  Phone
Alo House California 877-247-6467
Assisted Recovery Center Georgia 912-352-2454
Center For Motivational Change New York 413-229-3333
Clarity Way PA 717-969-9125
Cold Creek UT 801-803-5299
Practical Recovery California 800-977-6110
Sanctuary at Sedona Arizona 877-710-3385
St. Gregory’s Iowa 888-778-5833
Synergy Recovery Centers Missouri 417-812-4440
The Clearing Washington 425-309-7981


Map Of Programs


Courts Rule AA is a Religious Organization

The Federal courts 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 (variously described in Griffin v. Coughlin 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.

In several landmark cases, the federal courts have ruled AA is a form of religion. The issue has come up because traditionally the courts have been ordering people to attend AA meetings as part of their sentencing protocol. The issue came before 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.

Dr. Lance Dodes – Harvard Medical School

non 12 step sign vs 12 step pathDr. Lance Dodes, is a training and supervising analyst emeritus with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and 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.

5 Alternative Programs to the AA Recovery Model

SMART Recovery

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 (https://www.smartrecovery.org/) 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.

Rational Recovery

Founded in 1986 by Jack Trimpey, Rational Recovery® offers another alternative method to AA.

Rational Recovery (https://rational.org/) 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 (http://www.sossobriety.org/) 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 (https://womenforsobriety.org/) 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 feminist movement.

Moderation Management

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

Refuge Recovery (https://refugerecovery.org/)  is a mindfulness-based addiction recovery community that practices and utilizes Buddhist philosophy as the foundation of the recovery process.


Video About 4 Alternative Programs



Alcoholics Anonymous works for some people. A new study suggests the alternatives do too.

Saying A.A. Is Religious, Court Lets Inmate Skip It

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4 responses to “Understanding Non 12 Step Rehab Centers

  1. I don’ have confidence in the 12 step program because of the success rate. But, I’m reliant on my insurance. What options do I have with Cigna ppo.

  2. You did not mention Practical Recovery in San Diego, CA. This is the grand-daddy of non 12 Step recovery. The founder, Tom Horvath, is also the creator of SMART Recovery.

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