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What Are Some Alternatives to 12-step Programs?

Mark Sieg
After receiving his master degree in social work from grand valley state university in 1998, mark moved from michigan to florida to begin his professional career in substance abuse/addictions. Mark received his cap in 2003 from the florida certification board. With 20+ years of professional/clinical experience in addictions, mark has worked in virtually all capacities and in all modalities of treatment: as a counselor, clinical supervisor and program director. Mark spent 15 years with corrections based programs with the state of florida and has extensive experience with the criminal justice and judicial system. When mark is not working, you can find him on the beach playing his guitar, or reading walt whitman and viktor frankl. He thoroughly enjoys spending time with his beautiful family or preparing to get the call to join the tampa bay rays as a relief pitcher.

Are There Alternatives to 12-Step Programs?

Yes, the 12-step fellowships are just one of a range of support systems out there for people recovering from addiction. While they are the most popular choice, plenty of 12-step alternatives exist and they are worth exploring. In fact, the AA basic text itself even says “ours is not the only way” and encourages people to see what works for them. 

For a wide range of reasons, some people prefer an alternative to the traditional 12-step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Some people find the talk about spirituality makes them uncomfortable. Others may not want to attend meetings or may be skeptical about the effectiveness of the 12-step fellowships. 

Some have tried going to meetings and for whatever reason, never got around to choosing a sponsor and actually working the 12 steps and they just want to try something different. Finally there are people who are simply curious about what else is out there. No matter which group you find yourself in, Tranquil Shores has the information you’re looking for. Here is a list of alternatives to 12-step programs and an explanation of each one. 

12-Step Alternative #1: SMART Recovery

The Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) program began in 1994. It grew out of some earlier AA and NA alternatives like Women for Sobriety and Rational Recovery. SMART Recovery leaves out the spiritual element of the 12-step programs that some people find objectionable. The idea is a simple, science-based program that appeals to logic. At its most basic, SMART Recovery is based on what they call The 4 Points.

The 4 Points of SMART Recovery:

  • Building and maintaining the motivation to change.
  • Coping with urges to use.
  • Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors.
  • Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life.

12-Step Alternative #2: LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is like SMART Recovery in a number of ways. 12-step programs emphasize spirituality, but avoid organized religion or advocating specific beliefs. You just need a “power greater than yourself”. LifeRing, as a secular program, avoids the subject of spirituality. 

It instead focuses on self-reliance and behavior modification. Participants are encouraged to develop their “Own Personal Recovery Program”. LifeRing, like SMART Recovery, also has anonymous support group meetings. LifeRing meetings can be in person (f2f) or online. Like SMART Recovery, they also offer books and pamphlets. LifeRing uses what they call their 3-S Philosophy.

The LifeRing 3-S Philosophy:

  1. Sobriety
  2. Secularity
  3. Self-Help

12-Step Alternative #3: Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery takes a different approach. Instead of eliminating the emphasis on spirituality, they keep it intact and integrate Christianity. Celebrate Recovery can be a helpful option for people of faith who consider themselves Christian. It uses steps, much like NA, but the program is based on Christian principles. It also uses the Bible as one of its core pieces of literature. 

Celebrate Recovery is probably most appropriate for people who already identify as Christian. If you’re already a Christian, then the approach and language of Celebrate Recovery should feel familiar and comfortable to you. Celebrate Recovery has meetings, often in churches, much like NA and AA. You can find meetings and learn more about the program on their website.

12-Step Alternative #4: Moderation Management

Moderation Management is probably the most controversial group on this list. The main thing that makes it radically different from all the others is that it promotes moderation rather than abstinence. That, and it is also focused only on alcohol. For people who just drink more than they want to, but don’t consider themselves alcoholic, it may make sense. The reason for the controversy is simple. Denial is a very real obstacle to recovery. Most people are in denial for a time about just how much they are drinking or using. They are in denial about the impact it has on themselves and people around them too. 

Someone who is attending NA meetings isn’t going to find support there for “drinking in moderation”. Anyone who is in NA and at all serious about it will discourage any and all recreational drug use. Make no mistake, alcohol is a drug. So, if you’re looking for help for substance abuse, chances are that you aren’t just drinking “a little too much”. 

Most people don’t start looking for addiction treatment until they’ve felt some consequences. If you’re genuinely just drinking 6 beers every Friday night and you want to reduce it to 2, then you might give Moderation Management a try. If you are like most people seeking addiction help, then you have already seen warning signs. You have probably already had pain and loss. You probably have people who are worried about you. Let your conscience be your guide when choosing which of these 12-step alternatives to explore. 

12-Step Alternative #5: Group Therapy and CBT

The final option we must mention is conventional group therapy. Outpatient therapy isn’t a substitute for inpatient or residential treatment at drug rehabs in FL. But, it can be beneficial in protecting your recovery after you finish treatment. The idea is to not just protect your recovery after addiction treatment in Florida, but to make it stronger. Group therapy with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach can help you do that. 

Remember, there is no rule that says you can only try one of these options. It may take trying more than one to find the right fit for you. Everyone is wired a little differently. What works best for one person might not be ideal for you. The most important thing is that you are willing to try and you will set aside your own ideas you’ve been stubbornly holding on to. If you understand that your ideas are keeping you in addiction and you accept that there is a way out, you are already on your way.

Tranquil Shores Has Solutions for Addiction

No matter where you find yourself in your journey, we can help. Tranquil Shores is a Joint Commission Accredited alcohol and drug rehab located in the greater Tampa area. Our confidential hotline is available to you 24-hours a day. Call (727) 291-9874 for help, any time, day or night. 

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