Why A 12-Step Group May Not Work For Everyone

March 3, 2021

Anyone who has struggled with substance abuse has likely heard of a 12-step group or program. As one of the most common addiction treatment approaches, the 12-step treatment model has many interpretations. 

However, being common doesn’t mean they are necessarily effective. Everyone will have a unique experience with substance abuse, and may not respond well to every treatment type, even if it is commonly used. 

Addiction can take a lot from your life, but that doesn’t mean that it’s in control of your choices. Finding a program that speaks to you as a person on every level: mind, body, and spirit, can increase your chances of recovering and living a sober life.

Benefits and Limitations of a 12-Step Program

Although 12-step programs are quite popular, they are not always the most effective treatment for substance abuse. It is challenging to tell how effective 12-step programs are due to their anonymous nature. 

Another limitation of 12-step programs is that they are centered around a religious belief. This can be a deterrent for people who may not be religious or who are atheists (who do not believe in a higher power). 

Modern 12-steps often reference turning your life over to a higher power. In most cases, they refer to God but may also be whatever you perceive God to be. 

Non-12-step Addiction Treatment Programs

There are a variety of options when it comes to non-12-step recovery programs. While some target specific groups, most non 12 step rehabs are open to the general public. 

Some take medical approaches to recovery while some identify as holistic recovery centers. There is guaranteed to be a non 12 step drug rehab appropriate for everyone with so many options.

SMART (Smart Management and Recovery Training)

SMART (Smart Management and Recovery Training) is a program based on scientific research. Meetings are available to clients, typically at a non 12 step rehab center. 

SMART utilizes various types of therapy to help clients alter self-destructive behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) are both elements of the SMART program. 

While practices within the program are always changing based on scientific research, the SMART program has four main points, including:

  • Creating motivation to change: Without strong enough incentive, people have no reason to work on their sobriety.
  • Controlling Urges: After entering rehab and removing drugs and alcohol from their system, people will learn how to handle the urge to use again.
  • Regulating thoughts and behaviors: Individuals must learn how to hold and process through their own emotions.
  • Creating a balanced life: Learning how to control stressors and balance day-to-day life helps keep people from turning back to drugs or alcohol.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is designed especially for women dealing with substance abuse issues, Women for Sobriety is an organization that hosts meetings throughout the country for women to get together and support each other through their journey towards sobriety. 

Keeping women’s needs specifically in mind, Women for Sobriety seeks to help members identify both their negative thoughts and behaviors, then change those behaviors. Women for Sobriety have 13 statements, which clients are urged to review morning and night and put into practice during the day.

Moderation Management: Moderation Management (MM)

Moderation Management: Moderation Management (MM) is a very different non-12-step recovery program. It is meant for those who abuse alcohol, not those who have alcohol dependence—moderation Management functions on the principle that recovery does not require complete abstinence from the addiction. 

Instead, clients are taught to manage their problem behaviors and make positive changes in their own lives. Moderation Management does require clients to go through a 30-day abstinence period at the onset of the program. During this period, clients are taught how to cope with urges and how to be responsible when exposed to addictive substances.


With online meetings and in-person meetings available at non 12 step drug rehab centers, LifeRing is a secular program that believes each member is responsible for their journey. They distinguish one’s ‘sober self’ and one’s ‘addicted self.’ 

Programs are designed to help promote healthy ‘sober selves,’ with peer groups held at holistic recovery centers. Members can share their stories and offer each other advice at meetings.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety

This secular group offers membership, both in-person and online. Seeking to help clients challenge themselves and move past the things they cannot change, SOS has various programs available for clients to choose from.

Holistic Healing Approach At Elevate Addiction Services

There are many different options for substance abuse treatment, and it can feel overwhelming trying to decide what program will work best for you. Some people, especially those who have already tried a 12-step program, may want to consider a holistic treatment option. 

At Elevate, we provide holistic addiction treatment. We focus on more than just your substance abuse by helping clients heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our program is designed to help people come off substances safely and responsibly to start feeling better physically.

Once someone has detoxed, they will proceed to our program’s central portion, which focuses on healing physically through daily workouts and nutritional planning. Once these habits have been established, individuals will work with a counselor to repair personal relationships and their relationship with themselves. 

Individuals must choose a program that speaks to their needs and unique situation. The key to successful recovery is finding a treatment program that speaks to your sense of self. Whether that be an inpatient, outpatient, or 12-step program is entirely up to you. Call us to learn more about your treatment options. 

This page does not provide medical advice
Written by Elevate Addiction Services | © 2021 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

Medically Reviewed by

Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

December 31, 2020

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