A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with More than Just 12 Steps

The road to real recovery is more than a quick trip.

To find a good residential rehabilitation program, one first needs to know where to look. Rehabilitation is a journey—and a long one. Like other chronic diseases, it’s possible to treat addiction. Because addiction has a chronic nature, however, relapse isn’t only possible—but likely.

Individual outcome treatments depend on the patient’s particular problems. In most cases, the appropriateness of treatment also depends on the individual’s degree of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that prescription drugs, alcohol and illicit substances cause over 90,000 American deaths per year.

12 Step Rehab: Not Necessarily the Best Option

In the past, the 12 step philosophy of drug addiction recovery was incredibly popular. Pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12 step approach is currently used by approximately 74 percent of treatment centers.

What is the 12 step philosophy, exactly? The premise of the 12 step model is that recovering individuals can help each other find, achieve and maintain substance abuse abstinence. The recovery cannot be truly achieved, however, unless the recovering individual surrenders to a “higher power.”

What Defines a “Higher Power?”

Different 12 step movements identify different higher powers. Classic 12 step recovery programs normally take a religious approach.  For this reason, many claim that Alcoholics Anonymous is a religious movement itself. Other addiction treatment programs may simply attribute a higher power to some spiritual force.

Understandably, approaching addiction by adhering to a religious—or spiritual—center may not work for everyone. While the belief in God or similar force isn’t necessarily bad by itself, a slew of studies suggests that 12 step programs may be ineffective—or even counterproductive.

The Shortcomings of 12 Step Programs

While some recovering individuals may indeed find success with 12 step programs, many do not. 12-step-facilitation, or TSF, is currently applied to over 300 psychological disorders and addictions. These include:

  • Drug use
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Social anxiety
  • Compulsive spending
  • Problem gambling
  • Workaholism

A study conducted on 12 step programs reported that over one million Americans attended nearly 60,000 TSF groups in 2013 alone. Some estimate that approximately five million individuals attend over one TSF meeting per year.

This said similar peer-reviewed studies pegged AA success rates to be between five and 10 percent. In this statistic, only one in 15 program patients get sober—and stay sober.

An Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly report, published in 2000, analyzed various TSF membership surveys administered between 1968 and 1996. Of the newcomers reported in the study, about 81 percent stopped attending meetings in the first month.

Feeling Trapped: A Likely Downfall

When people feel trapped, psychologically, they may feel overwhelmingly helpless. In helplessness, some people may turn to addiction. In psychology, this outlet is called “displacement.”

Experts suggest that understanding addiction, both emotionally and psychologically, is vital to overcoming the addictive urges which are responsible for relapse. In understanding addiction, recovering patients can be taught to predict several important factors, including:

  • Psychological triggers of substance use
  • Underlying psychological issues
  • Underlying lifestyle issues
  • The science of relapse

The feeling of being trapped exists in numerous studies pertaining to addiction causes. These same studies, such as one displayed in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, even pinpoint the understanding of addiction as necessary to recovery.

12 step programs, relying on the aid of a higher power, may inherently rob recovering individuals of this understanding. In doing so, they may fail in securing long-term recovery for those in need.

Why Have 12 Step Programs Become Popular?

Again, some individuals seeking treatment may indeed find solace in 12 step programs. Barring this, however, a surprising amount of 12 step popularity can be attributed to America’s drug courts.

America’s first drug court sentenced addicted individuals—labeled as “nonviolent drug offenders”—to 12 step programs. Eventually, this court-ordered participation in TSF groups was deemed to be unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the original standard of 12 step program use has remained strong.

Some addiction experts even speculate that America’s modern addiction support framework is still reminiscent of AA. Those suffering drinking problems, gambling problems or drug problems may find themselves adhering to 12 step ideologies.

12 step alcohol treatment program

When Do 12 Step Programs Work?

Before exploring non 12 step rehab options, it’s important to understand why 12 step programs may be suitable for some. Some experts believe the sense of comradery instilled by 12 step programs contributes to the five to 10 percent of patients who do well in AA.

A supportive organization matters. Likewise, positive reinforcement of one’s peers is shown to increase the chances of successful addiction recovery. Unfortunately, a majority of people struggling with addiction fail to recover in 12 step programs.

There simply isn’t enough exploration on the way addiction works. At its core: A recovery program lacking this “understanding” component of addiction’s psychological, physical and emotional roots may not be enough to help addicted individuals.

Non 12 Step Recovery Programs

A number of non 12 step programs exist. If you’re looking for a 12 step alternative, you can achieve—and maintain—sobriety in a slew of exciting ways. While 12 step programs focus on a higher power for assistance, non 12 step rehab rehabilitation revolves around the pursuit of knowledge.

What are the Major Differences Between 12 Step and Non 12 Step Rehab?

In non 12 step rehab, self-reliance replaces the “higher power” mantra as a foundation. Because non 12 step drug rehab is primarily science-based, many non 12 step recovery programs take different approaches. A given non 12 step drug rehab center will custom-tailor treatment options to patients based on several factors:

  • The leading research acknowledged by the center
  • The individual’s severity of addiction
  • The individual’s mental health state
  • The individual’s physical health state

Unlike 12 step recovery programs, non 12 step recovery programs constantly evolve to include new addiction research. Commonly, non 12 step rehab programs alter core frameworks to include new, scientifically supported techniques. The adoption of new techniques is slow, however, so as to help patients adapt to new options.

The Best Non 12 Step Recovery Programs

While some addiction treatment centers have adopted custom non 12 step rehab programs, several “core” non 12 step rehab programs exist. These programs are incredibly popular due to their historic effectiveness, and they’re constantly growing to adopt new, innovative addiction recovery approaches. Let’s take a look.

SMART Recovery

Some of the best non 12 step rehab programs help recovering individuals with SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery uses cognitive-behavioral approaches to rehabilitation. The program helps members recognize the emotional and environmental factors responsible for the individual’s drug use. SMART Recovery can be applied to other addictive behaviors, too, including:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Gaming addiction
  • Spending addiction

SMART Recovery tools are based on empowerment. Many of the program’s practices stem from research conducted by entities like the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The program is abstinence-based. By following a four-point urge-reduction system, SMART Recovery creates new habits, removes old habits and combats relapse. The program’s four points are:

One: Build and maintain motivation

Two: Cope with urges

Three: Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Four: Live a balanced life

Celebrate Recovery

Originally a Christian support group founded in the 1990s, Celebrate Recovery follows an eight-point recovery framework. The core principles in Celebrate Recovery are based on biblical verses, yet the program’s core is founded on science.

For this reason, Celebrate Recovery is a fantastic non 12 step rehabilitation program for those preferring a secular approach to recovery. Each step in Celebrate Recovery is designed to target addictive behavior at its roots—helping patients become free from hurts, hang-ups, and habits.

As of 2009, Celebrate Recovery has reached over 10,000 churches—most of which are evangelical.

The Harm Reduction Coalition

Created in the mid-1990s, the Harm Reduction Coalition has existed as an independent group supporting recovering individuals. By focusing on practical strategies created to minimize high-risk behaviors, harm reduction serves as a non-judgmental approach to recovery.

Today, some of the best non 12 step rehab programs use exercises created by the Harm Reduction Coalition. A non 12 step rehabilitation program offering these practices help addicts learn more about the risks associated with substance abuse. Then, they learn to reduce and eliminate them.

During harm reduction, total abstinence from substances is desired. While harm reduction techniques can exist independently from some of the best non 12 step rehab programs, they may be incorporated in non 12 step rehabilitation as part of:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Outpatient accountability groups

Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery is an organization which has implemented its recovery strategies in many non 12 step rehabilitation programs. Utilizing an approach called the Addiction Voice Recognition Technique, the Rational Recovery non 12 step rehabilitation platform focuses on the individual’s deeper urges to use substances.

Specifically, the technique helps addicted individuals strengthen their resolve against substance use by viewing addiction as a voluntary behavior. Through Rational Recovery, patients focus on gaining self-efficacy—or their ability to gain control over three factors:

  • Their motivation
  • Their behavior
  • Their social environment

The ultimate of the Addiction Voice Recognition Technique is to provide patients with a source of guidance, counseling, and instruction. At the same time, it serves to redirect guidance inward—so the patient may gain a higher degree of self-control.

What to Do Before Exploring Non 12 Step Aftercare Treatment Options

While the above programs are widely used, they’re not a patient’s only available options. Every person is different. Every person is motivated by different factors during addiction recovery. Inpatient non 12 step alcohol treatment may be useful for some, but outdoor motivational exercises may be useful to others.

First, you should seek out a qualified residential rehabilitation program or outpatient support, after which these non 12 step alcohol treatment and drug treatment programs can prove effective.

Adventure Therapy

An exciting alternative to traditional therapy, adventure therapy takes a non 12 step approach—supported by science—to recovery. Rather than engaging addiction recovery inside, adventure therapy relies on outdoor activities, exercise, and exploration.

Studies support the effectiveness of adventure therapy. Often included as part of a residential rehabilitation program, adventure therapy can exist as part of an outpatient program, too. It can even be engaged by recovering individuals who seek rehabilitation alone.

Some examples of adventure therapy include:

  • High-intensity exercise
  • Hiking
  • Local exploration
  • Obstacle courses

12 step alcohol treatment

Breathing Exercises and Meditation

The art of body rejuvenation therapy has been adopted by non 12 step treatment programs, too. Breathing exercises and meditation, reportedly, serve an important role in dopamine production, cognitive repair and relapse prevention.

While breathing exercises and meditation can follow secular programs, many non 12 step addiction recovery centers utilize the practices as program mainstays. Body rejuvenation therapy often acts as an overarching framework for these practices.

Yoga, acupuncture and massage therapy, today, are cornerstones of body rejuvenation therapy. Non 12 step alcohol treatment may include elements of this therapy as part of outpatient programs. Inpatient facilities, meanwhile, may host workshops, one-on-one exercises, and ongoing routines to assist long-term addiction recovery.

Addiction is a recognizable disease. As such, it’s deserving of evidence-based recovery approaches. If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, consider engaging a non 12 step program. Directed by professionals, and powered by science, non 12 step programs are both engaging and successful.

If you’re ready to begin your recovery journey, contact Elevate today at 1-831-440-3568. Offering a number of non 12 step addiction recovery approaches, Elevate can help you take your first steps. The power of rehabilitation is in your hands. 

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