Alternatives to 12 Step Programs


The 12 step structure is a popular one for informal addiction treatment, but it doesn’t fit everyone. There are those who stumble with the spiritual aspects and those that reject the “incurable disease” idea. Some find group meetings uncomfortable and don’t get any benefit from sharing. For these, there are alternatives to 12 step programs.

The first is professional treatment and therapy. Detox under medical supervision is popular, along with follow up treatments involving one-on-one counseling sessions. Medications may be offered, depending on the addiction. Even group sessions that do not involve 12 step style programs may be part of the mix.

Informally, there is the one-step method. This involves abstinence as the one and only “step.” Estimates put the spontaneous remission of alcohol abuse at about 5% per year. This group simply stops drinking, sometimes because of a diagnosed medical consequence or other serious life change.

It’s important to note that even without a formal 12 step program, help is available at no cost. There are chat rooms and discussions about any imaginable addiction going on 24 hours a day on the Internet. There is informal counseling available from church authorities and many corporations will have drug and alcohol programs available for employees. Some of the better programs are actually offered by State regulatory boards for professional license holders. While these are not available to everyone, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and other professionals can get guidance specific to their fields to help them combat addiction.

There are also programs available for low income persons through state welfare agencies. Some are 12 step based, some not.

Which are the most effective? This is an impossible question to answer for two reasons. The first is that many programs are anonymous or do not track “graduates” long term. But a more important reason is that statistics do not really tell you what you want to know. No program, 12 step or not, is 100% effective. What you really want to know isn’t, “What percentage of attendees does this help?” – but rather – “Will this help me?”

The only true test is to go and find out. And then, if it doesn’t work the first time, either go again or find another treatment to try. There is much truth in the saying, “Don’t quit quitting.”

How do I find one? There is no complete directory of 12 step alternatives that I could find. The best thing to do is use Google and search for: non 12 step program followed by the name of your State. You can also inquire at your church or any social services office to get a recommendation.

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