Most everyone is familiar with the 12-Step program associated with Alcoholics Anonymous. This popular fellowship program has been around since the late 1930s assisting members worldwide in their quest to live a life without drugs and alcohol. What is less familiar, but just as significant in the addiction and recovery world, are the non 12-Step programs that have been growing in popularity since the 1970s with venues popping up across the country.
Thankfully, more tailored approaches to recovery are appearing on the horizon. This development provides options for people seeking a support group where they feel a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and comfort. Instead of a one-size-fits-all mold into which all individuals in recovery must squeeze, a non 12-Step program offers a much-appreciated alternative to the traditional 12-Step program.
What is Non 12-Step Treatment?
One might ask why there is a need for a non 12-Step approach to addiction recovery? What makes a non 12-Step different from a 12-Step program? In a nutshell, a non 12-Step treatment program captures those in early addiction recovery who might otherwise eschew a 12-Step program. While the A.A. 12-Steps are imbued with a religious theme throughout—references to God or a Higher Power—the non 12-Step programs steer clear of any such references, offering a more secular approach to healing from addiction. For people who do not associate with a religious worldview, a non 12-Step program gives them the alternative that will resonate with their own belief system.
A non 12-Step program is a holistically oriented approach to addiction recovery that emphasizes self-empowerment—in sharp contrast to the 12-Step theme of self-identifying as powerless and defective. The non 12-Step programs can vary in their particular message or approach, offering even more options within the broader category. This variety of programs becomes crucial for recovering addicts who sincerely want to remain sober and are in need of a social support system, but who aren’t necessarily religious. They are looking for the right fit, and for many a non 12-Step program is a perfect match.
The most widely available non 12-step program is called SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), an international non-profit organization that was established in 1992. The SMART Recovery program is science-based and places an emphasis on self-empowerment. The SMART Recovery model offers four areas of focus, including:
- Building and maintaining motivation
- Coping with urges
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Living a balanced life
Where the 12-Step program of A.A. teaches members that their addiction is a life-long disease, the SMART recovery non 12-Step programs helps participants achieve self-directed change by encouraging them to believe that they can recover from addiction. For individuals who take ownership of their lives and responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, the SMART Recovery non 12-Step program resonates.
A Holistic Approach to Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Where the non 12-Step programs provide an alternative approach to addiction recovery, recovery is enhanced by also adding holistic therapeutic treatments to augment the program. A holistic approach to treatment simply means that all aspects of the individual are treated, not just the addiction behaviors. A foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectic behavioral therapy (DBT) allow for identifying thoughts and feelings that trigger substance abuse and replace that behavior with new, healthy responses, giving the newly sober person tools to access when the need arises.
By integrating adjunct therapies into the non 12-Step program, an emphasis on self-awareness and emotional healing will help promote long-term recovery, supplementing the psychotherapy. These holistic therapies boost relaxation and teach stress reduction techniques, as well as assist the individual in discovering core emotional issues that may be driving the addictive behaviors.
Examples of holistic therapies within the umbrella of addiction treatment and recovery are:
- Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation
- Equine therapy
- Garden therapy
- Art and music therapy
All of these aspects of a non 12-Step program work together to create a sense of calm…and confidence in recovery. Healing the whole person, not just the addiction, is what the non 12-Step program is all about.
About Shelly Tichelaar
With 35 years of experience working with addicts in recovery, Shelly Tichelaar understands the needs of her clients. Shelly oversees the daily operations at Ranch Creek Recovery, ensuring that all clients feel welcome and cared from start to finish of their healing journey at RCR. Shelly helped build a team of professionals that truly desires to match each client with an individualized program that will best meet his or her treatment needs and goals in a comfortable and therapeutic setting.