12 step vs non 12 step

When it comes time to get help for an alcohol or drug dependency you may notice the myriad of treatment options available and quickly feel overwhelmed.  

Most recovery programs, no matter how varied the approach, embrace either a 12 step model, based on the program from Alcoholics Anonymous, or a non 12 step model.  Understanding the difference between the two is key to choosing between a 12-step versus a non 12 step based addiction treatment facility.

Because people’s preferences and worldviews are as distinct as their thumbprints, it is good to know a bit about these two treatment approaches and then decide which one best aligns with your own views.  One is not necessarily better or more effective than the other; they are just vastly different.  Selecting a 12 step versus a non 12 step program comes down to deciding which treatment program best meshes with your personal worldview.

Finding the right match for your recovery program can make the difference between a sustained recovery and a failed recovery.  Why?  Because if you do not respect or believe in the basic tenets of the program, chances are you will not be as involved—you will likely tune out.  Being in sync with the underlying philosophy of the treatment program gives you a sense of ownership of your recovery, and you will be more receptive to and compliant with each phase of treatment.

Comparing 12 Step VS Non 12 Step Addiction Treatment

12 Step Programs

The 12 step program hatched in 1935 by the creators of Alcoholics Anonymous infuses a definitive spiritual foundation throughout the steps.  Originally, and for decades, God was referenced in both the steps and the accompanying literature; with the theme that one could simply not overcome addiction without a spiritual awakening and the embracing of God’s help.  In recent years the reference to God has evolved to the term Higher Power, who can be whoever or whatever the individual determines it to be.  

Because A.A. has been around for about 80 years, and with 2 million members worldwide, the 12 step program has become somewhat of an institution in the recovery community.  Because of this, there are far more addiction treatment programs that are built around the 12 step program.

Features of 12-step based programs:

  • Admitting one is powerless to the addiction
  • Accepting that addiction is a lifelong and incurable condition
  • Humbly seeking forgiveness and making amends with loved ones
  • Open and honest communication within the assembled group when asked to speak, but no cross talk at meetings is permitted
  • Promotes meditation and self-reflection for personal growth
  • It is a non-denomination, non-profit group
  • Program is very structured and guided by 12 principles

Non 12 Step Programs

With the emergence of a more secular society, alternatives to 12-step programs started popping up in the 1970s.  Those who created the non 12 step programs, and those who gravitated to them, were seeking a program that they could connect with.  For many in recovery, a religious or spiritual life isn’t a significant aspect in their daily lives, so the 12 step program’s spiritual foundation didn’t resonate.

Non 12 step programs tend to integrate more humanist themes, such as self-empowerment and being in control over one’s own life, versus the belief that God or a Higher Power is the one in control.  While most non 12 step programs are secular, there are some faith-based non 12 step programs.  Non 12 step programs may also have steps involved, but they are different that A.A.’s steps.

Features of non 12-step based programs include:

  • They often utilize holistic therapies, such as yoga, meditation, massage, art, music, and dance therapy, acupuncture, and equine therapy
  • They do not believe that addiction is an incurable condition
  • They do believe the individual is in control and promote increased self-empowerment
  • Programs are often more individualized than 12 step treatment programs
  • Promotes self-reliance
  • Encourages open discussion at meetings

Non 12 Step Rehab

After considering the basic differences between a 12 step versus a non 12 step program, you may decide that you would be more receptive to a non 12 step.  For more information please call to connect with a treatment center at (866) 644-7911.

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