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Non 12 Step Recovery Programs

Non 12 step rehab centers offer an alternative recovery program to the Alcoholics Anonymous treatment model. However, they do not adhere to the AA spiritually-based format.

This page contains a list of alternative support 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 that method before and were unsuccessful.

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. 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 that 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,” which violates the First Amendment.

For the past 86 years, the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have been the cornerstone of most treatment centers’ clinical philosophy. However, a few recently chose to offer an alternative for people who have tried AA already and failed or consider themselves atheists or agnostics.

Historically, the Steps of AA have 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 not treatment. Alternative rehab programs offer a holistic, therapeutic, clinical approach. They often use an evidence-based philosophy, which focuses primarily on cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • The 12 Steps do not work for everyone
  • It is considered religious
  • It is merely a support group
  • Have to admit powerlessness
  • Treatment needs optional approaches
  • Some don’t support medication
  • Low success rate (5-10%)

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. However, before a federal court, this issue arose when an atheist claimed he should not 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. Therefore, someone who did not believe in their spiritual approach should not have to attend AA meetings.

  • Saying AA Is Religious, Court Lets Inmate Skip It (NY Times article)
  • Federal courts have ruled that inmates, parolees, and probationers cannot order someone to attend AA. Though AA itself is not a religion, it contains enough religious components to violate the First Amendment.
  • The US Court of Appeals stated that a parolee has grounds to sue the parole department if required to attend AA.

Below is a list of non 12 step-based support groups available for people who need a place for support.

Perhaps the largest and best known is SMART Recovery. SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training. Founded in 1994, SMART Recovery uses CBT and other therapies to help people understand and change how they think, feel, react and behave.

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 must be successful.

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 necessarily a feminist movement.

Audrey Kishline founded Moderation Management in 1994. Moderation Management 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 recovery process’ foundation.

Although it no longer exists, Rational Recovery® did offer another alternative method to AA. Rational Recovery states that 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 believe their substance of choice self-medicates various psychological conditions, including but not limited to depression and anxiety.