One widely known treatment method for substance abuse disorders is the 12-step programs. While this method can be helpful in providing a strong social support system for those who suffer from addictions to alcohol and drugs, there are new and improved methods for treatment of addictions 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 1930s 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 abstention and undergoing a spiritual transformation. While research widely supports abstinence from the source of an addiction and support groups as a supportive therapy, 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 substance abuse disorder (SUD) treatment, including counseling, inpatient or residential rehabs, intensive outpatient rehabs, hospitalization, medication a combination of these services increases the likelihood of addiction 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 therapy with licensed medical professionals.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are several findings that inform the successful approach to recovery. A Non-12-Step rehab program adheres to these principles, which include:

  1. Addiction is treatable and affects the brain in systemic ways that influence 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 therapy 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 a full recovery.
  6. Behavioral therapies, such as CBT and REBT, are the most common forms of addressing addiction issues.
  7. Medications can be important in treating substance abuse disorders and related disorders.
  8. A client’s recovery 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. This condition is known as dual diagnosis.  
  10. Medical detoxification programs can be the first stage in addressing addiction.
  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.

How is a Non-12-Step Rehab Program Different?

A non-12 step rehab program doesn’t consider the addict powerless. Instead, it focuses on restoring a patient’s self-worth and self-control while also empowering them with the ability to take charge of their own life. It achieves this by helping patients admit and acknowledge their addictions and also help them take responsibility for their past decisions. This method helps break away from the victim mindset that places blame on other people and circumstances. This approach cultivates certain mindsets that help individuals realize that they possess innate qualities that lead them to indulge in addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs. While a traditional 12-step approach sees addictions as an illness that can only be overcome through spirituality, a non-12-step method approaches addictions as a disease similar to other incurable diseases that require a scientific approach for recovery.

Why Are 12-Step Alternatives Needed?

The need for alternative methods arises from the traditional 12-step method no longer fitting the needs or lifestyle of many, and most individuals preferring the flexible approach of a non-12 step method. As no one method works for everyone, having an alternative option helps reach patients that are looking for something different.

What Options Do I Have For A Non-Twelve-Step Rehab Approach?

Addiction recovery methods are constantly evolving to meet the dynamic needs, personalities, and requirements of each individual person. Today there exists a wide range of recovery options and rehabs that addresses a patient’s addictions and needs physically, mentally, and emotionally. A non-12-steps approach may include programs such as adventure therapy, biophysical therapy, and dual pathology. All recovery starts with that all-important first step, and we at Turning Point Centers are available to guide you in your time of need.

12stepsalternatives12-Step Alternatives: CBT and REBT

The 12-step approach was started early in the 20th century before the medical community had any real understanding of what caused addiction, or how to treat it. The 12-step approach is a peer-based community support group…basically one addict or alcoholic helping another. It is a culture of recovery that is based in the personal opinions of those who attend meetings and does not take into account the science of addiction, the role of the mid-brain, or the overwhelming presence of co-occurring mental health issues for those who struggle with this vicious disease. Licensed professionals do not moderate the meetings themselves.

Although the 12-step approach certainly helped many people to achieve and sustain sobriety over the years, other alternative programs that can be equally or even more effective have been created since which contain the same fellowship and support. These alternatives to 12-step based rehab at often is made up of individuals seeking a holistic, therapeutic path to recovery.

Many facilities take a different approach when treating Dual Diagnosis substance abuse that don’t involve 12-step rehab. These include: cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT), rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) which is a form of CBT. CBT and REBT are evidenced-based approaches (clinically proven and supported by SAMSHA) for dealing with affective and addictive disorders. Albert Ellis, who was awarded the distinction of being “the most influential psychologist” of the 20th Century by the American Psychological Association, first developed REBT.

CBT and more specifically, REBT, assume that people act the way they do because of their perceptions of reality, not because of reality itself. In other words, behaviors, emotions and thoughts are driven by beliefs that people hold about how things “should” be rather than how things actually are. REBT therapy is an alternative therapy to 12-step and is designed to help individuals discover underlying and often unconscious, inflexible and self-destructive beliefs about themselves, others and the world. Once these beliefs are identified, challenged and reframed, individuals are able to increasingly accept themselves and others without emotional distress. This resulting reduction in emotional distress allows them to reduce their overall stress and anxiety levels, to improve their mood and to gain control over self-destructive behaviors such as addiction. This differs from the 12-step approach in that a licensed and trained individual administers the therapy, and the therapy is specific and targets particular issues.

Many good things have come out of the 12-step addiction recovery programs. However, alternatives to 12-step based rehabs are also very successful and life changing – often more so.

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