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Non 12-Step Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centers

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

February 5, 2019

Non 12-step treatments provide an individualized alternative to the traditional format of 12-step programs. While 12-step programs encourage individuals to embrace a higher power and a sense of powerlessness over their addiction in order to overcome it, non 12-step programs put a large measure of control back in the client’s hands.

Instead of looking at addiction as something which is predominantly spiritual in nature, as prescribed by most 12-step programs, non 12-step programs treat addiction as a disease. In this vein, instead of relying on a higher power to create a drug-free life, non 12-step programs utilize research-based and customized treatments to provide healing.

Twelve-Step Programs Are Not Your Only Treatment Options

If, when you think about drug or alcohol treatment, you think of Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar 12-step program, you’re not alone. Twelve-step programs are some of the oldest in existence for treating substance abuse and addiction, and for this reason, they’re still widely used within treatment. Twelve-step programs do produce favorable, lasting results for many people. But despite this popularity and widespread use, they’re not always the best programs for every individual.

While 12-step programs do offer the structure, accountability, and peer support many individuals in treatment benefit from, certain individuals are deterred by the religious connotations of some, and others by the lack of individualized care. If these are issues you or a loved one might be concerned with, consider looking into a non 12-step program.

These alternative programs blend evidenced-based treatments, including psychotherapies; pharmacotherapies (medications); peer support; and alternative treatment modalities which appeal to a wide variety of interests and lifestyles. Programs are not a one-size-fits all approach, rather, treatment is customized to fit the unique demands, health histories, and personalities of each client.

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Non Twelve-Step Programs Still Offer Structured Treatment

Don’t be mistaken, non 12-step programs do offer structure. Addiction breeds and feeds upon instability. As a person consumes more drugs or alcohol, they begin to negate important responsibilities in their life, being quick to drop what they’re doing in pursuit of the next high or buzz. Life becomes a blur of cravings, drug seeking and using, and even the uncomfortable, and many times dangerous, feelings of withdrawal.

By the time a person enters treatment, their life is most often plagued with doubt, uncertainty, and instability. At this vulnerable time, structure is very important. During rehab, your day will be highly structured. This isn’t to say you won’t have free time, or time to engage in things which interest you. Good programs have a balance of these things blended within the required or suggested treatments.

Each day you’ll have therapy, counseling, team-building events, recreational time, and many more activities (including personal time) built into a set schedule. From this structure comes stability, and the ability for a person to better regulate their life and choices in a positive way.

Individualized Care Can Make A Huge Difference In Treatment

While 12-step programs are based on prescribed and concrete steps, this treatment is adapted to each client’s specific lifestyle, history, mental and physical health needs, and social and family concerns. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, effective treatment should address the following matters:

As the facility’s therapists and counselors work to understand how you’ve been impacted by these things, they do rely on a structured approach, but they don’t let it limit your treatment. Behavioral modification and life skills training will help you to regain better control over these important areas of your life.

Addiction is precipitated by risk factors within your life, whether they be genetic, social, concerns of mental health, or other negative influence. The best treatment recognizes this, and develops treatment accordingly, including a directed approach to each drug of abuse. Individualized care may include:

  • Individual and group sessions
  • Dual diagnosis care
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Relapse prevention training
  • Aftercare support

Teaching an individual how to overcome negative life circumstances, or to cope with them better, grants them flexibility and resilience for when they return back to their life. Behavioral therapies are key components of these programs. The following research-based treatments have been shown to offer long-lasting outcomes:

A combination of these methods, in a tailored approach, works to ensure that issues relevant to you are worked upon in a way which best fosters a healthy, grounded, drug-free life.

Non Twelve-Step Programs Go Beyond Just Spiritual Components To Treat The Mind And Body

Addiction can very deeply affect a person’s spiritual state, and even within non 12-step programs this element can, and should, be addressed. But spirituality takes numerous forms, and the individualized approach of non 12-step programs permits it to be integrated as such.

Many of these programs draw upon a mind-body-spirit approach, allowing a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual states to be treated holistically in a synergistic way. Strengthening a person in all of these respects is important for true healing and lasting sobriety. Methods to achieve these goals include:

  • Mindfulness and stress management practices
  • Holistic therapies (acupuncture, massage, Reiki, tai chi, and yoga)
  • Nutritional support and guidance
  • Exercise classes
  • Outdoor and recreational activities

Treatment staff will facilitate discussions and counseling sessions which examine the way a person’s struggled emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Here, through this therapeutic alliance, an individual will identify how these struggles influenced their substance abuse, and what they can do to make positive changes. Inversely, if you have forgotten your positive attributes or strengths, or not yet realized them, these sessions will dig deep to reveal the power for change you have within.

Twelve-step programs encourage you to admit that you are powerless over your addiction. On the other hand, non 12-step programs work hard to empower you, guiding you on an inward-facing journey. During this transformative time you will develop personal strength and perseverance to overcome the addictive lifestyle.

Do Non Twelve-Step Programs Treat Addiction As A Disease?

Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the most well-known and utilized 12-step programs today, references compulsive substance abuse as an “illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.” This perspective can be very limiting to treatment for some.

Addiction is in fact a disease, a medical one which affects an individual’s brain. And like other diseases, such as diabetes, it requires constant vigilance and a lifetime of care. But also like other diseases, with the proper treatment, medications (when necessary), and support, an individual can lead a healthy life within recovery.

For those who suffer from an addiction to alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opioids (drugs which forge intense physical dependencies) treatment may start with a medical detox. Here, various pharmacotherapies may be used to treat symptoms of withdrawal, as well as nutritive support to address any deficiencies caused by the addiction.

Even other medical diseases like heart disease and cancer can be emotionally strenuous, leading a person to seek mental health care. A thorough inpatient drug rehab should also offer treatment for any mental illnesses which accompany the addiction (termed co-occurring disorders or dual diagnoses).

Non Twelve-Step Programs Offer Comprehensive Dual Diagnosis Care

For many, drugs or alcohol aren’t the sole culprits within addiction. Mental illnesses, like depression and anxiety, quite often occur with addiction. They may precede the addiction and cause it, or for some, they may even result from it.

Whichever the case, in order for a person to create a solid foundation for a drug-free life, their mental health must be treated along with the addiction. Other mental illnesses which may be treated within these programs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • History of traumatic events

It can take time to unearth these conditions (if not already diagnosed), and even longer to treat them. For these reasons, inpatient programs that offer long-term care options are often better choices.

Are There Other Ways To Get Peer Support Besides Twelve-Step Programs?

Peer support and group work is an important part of treatment. Hearing other people’s success stories and effective coping skills can help to inspire and guide you within your recovery.

Here’s some examples of non 12-step support groups which may be used during or after treatment:

This one-on-one and group time with other people in recovery will keep you accountable and grounded when times get tough. It also gives you an opportunity to celebrate your success.

What Options Do I Have For Non Twelve-Step Treatment?

Addiction medicine is constantly evolving to meet the dynamic personalities of its clients and the growing body of research devoted to this field. Today there exists a wide-range of treatment options which will address your needs physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Here’s a few examples of non 12-step programs you may choose from:

Beyond this, many facilities offer an array of exciting and engaging alternative treatment modalities, including:

If you’re facing addiction, or trying to help someone who is, take the time to consider what’s important to you and let that inform your decision.

Find Individualized Non Twelve-Step Treatment Programs Today

If you’re trying to build a sober life, you deserve individualized and compassionate care. Contact today to find out how a non 12-step program could offer you this life-changing treatment.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Principles of Effective Treatment

Alcoholics Anonymouse - Big Book Chapter 4

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