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One widely known treatment method for substance abuse disorders is the 12-step program. While this method can be helpful in providing a strong social support system for those who suffer, there are new and improved methods for treatment with stronger, more scientifically proven links to recovery: non 12 step rehab programs.

The 12-step support program was originally formed by the Alcoholic Anonymous Association in the 1930’s as a peer support group to help people recover from addiction disorders and is spiritual and religious in nature. The 12-step program assumption is that addiction is both progressive and incurable, with symptoms only alleviated through abstaination and undergoing a spiritual transformation. While research widely supports abstinence from the source of an addiction and support groups as supportive treatments, there are alternatives to the 12-step program that offer more clinically effective results.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a multidimensional and individualized treatment plan for addictive disorders makes for a more effective one. There are many aspects of substances abuse disorder (SUD) treatment, including counseling, inpatient or residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, hospitalization, medication — a combination of these services increases likelihood of recovery.

“Though 12-Step fellowships are listed as recognized treatment, published literature by AA clearly states that those fellowships do not perform many of the important, synchronous support and care coordination described in SAMHSA’s overview of treatment and recovery support services,” an article in Social Work Today explains. Rather, non 12 step rehab programs offer individualized, tailored treatment with licensed medical professionals.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are several findings that inform successful treatment. A non 12 step rehab program adheres to these principles, which include:

  1. Addiction is treatable and affects the brain in systemic ways that influences behavior. Maladaptive behavior can be challenged and informed to better serve the client’s recovery.
  2. Treatment is most effective when it is tailored to the individuals’ needs.
  3. Successful recovery hinges partially on the accessibility of treatment. The client needs access to resources for help.
  4. Effective treatment can mean addressing multiple issues in addition to SUD, such as mental health conditions and dual diagnosis treatment.
  5. Clients need appropriate time receiving treatment and care to expect full recovery.
  6. Behavioral therapies, such as CBT and REBT, are the most common forms of addiction treatment.
  7. Medications can be important in treating substance abuse disorders and related disorders.
  8. A client’s treatment plan may need to be modified with time as circumstances and risk factors for relapse change and emerge or disappear.
  9. Many individuals with addictive disorders also suffer from mental health disorders, a condition known as dual diagnosis.  
  10. Medical detoxification programs can be a first stage of addiction treatment.
  11. Even involuntary admission into rehabilitation programs can be successful.
  12. If any drug use is a part of treatment, it must be monitored closely to avoid relapse.

Working with a combination of these principles and approaches is a key to success. The idea that one form of treatment is the right treatment for everybody tends to disregard the complexity of addiction and the many factors that play into addictive behavior. Through an individualized modality, clients struggling with substance abuse can have hope to see results.