Non 12-Step Rehabs

alternatives to 12 step rehabsThe right addiction treatment is the one that helps a person get and stay sober. While many people are familiar with 12-Step programs, there are other options that yield high success rates.

Many drug rehabilitation facilities lean on the 12-Step approaches made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact, researchers found 77 percent of facilities surveyed used the approach at least sometimes.[1] While 12-Step programs are right for some people, they’re wrong for others. Some people need a completely different approach to live sober successfully. Thanks to decades of scientific research, there are alternate ways for people who want to recover without participating in a 12-Step program.

Understanding the Need

Professional drug rehab facilities offer patients talk therapy provided by a trained medical professional. Individual and group therapy helps people develop a sophisticated understanding of why they began using drugs, as well as the tools they need to stay sober in the future. Evidence-based therapies include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Motivational enhancement therapy. These therapies offer valuable skill building and strategies for staying sober. To continue building on these programs after leaving treatment, patients need aftercare, which supports patients as they live their day-to-day lives.[2]

In a support group, participants meet with other addicts in recovery, and these peers offer insight that a therapist just can’t give, including personal stories of recovery. Traditional 12-Step support groups pair this peer bonding with religious overtones that some people find off-putting. Some people may not like the idea of appealing to a higher power in order to heal, and they may resist the idea that they can’t get better without divine help. Those who don’t like religious ideology might be less inclined to go to meetings. For example, one study found that only 25 percent of secular people who had been through treatment went to a 12-Step meeting.[3]

Alcoholics Anonymous and its 12-Step principles are well known to many people. The more than 80-year-old approach to addiction is available all over the world, but there are newer approaches for addiction backed by years of scientific research. More modern approaches are less well known but research shows they produce positive results. In addition, alternatives to 12-Step programs are more open to trying new things and give participants more leeway to make personal choices.[4]

For people who do not want a religious element there are non-12-Step groups that don’t focus on a higher power, such as:

  • SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training): a four-point program that builds off talk therapy principles and encourages people to find ways to fight cravings and maintain positive thinking
  • Life Ring: group with 3-S philosophy: Sobriety, Secularity and Self-help
  • SOS: group that embraces sobriety as a top goal and works on multiple strategies for staying sober
  • Women for Sobriety: empowers women to stay sober with 13 principles, including personal responsibility and positive thinking

Many of these groups rely on the Internet, through online chat rooms or Facebook, to reach out to people. Group officials also reach out to treatment facilities and employee assistance programs to let treatment professionals know about options to 12-Step programs that give people support once they leave treatment. Other support groups tied to a facility may have no overarching organization at all, allowing people to discuss their addictions naturally, rather than following a rulebook.

Alternative Therapies

In addition to suggesting alternate forms of support groups, non-12-Step rehab facilities may offer alternative therapies, such as:

  • Art therapy
  • Equine-assisted therapy
  • Ropes and adventure therapy
  • EMDR/hypnotherapy
  • Psychodrama
  • Expressive therapy
  • Structured metaphor and experiential groups

Patients might have the option to choose the interventions they want, allowing them to customize their care in a way that might not be possible in a 12-Step focused facility. Patients have the opportunity to choose new treatments that intrigue them and drop any treatment that doesn’t seem to be helping.

Rehab at The Canyon

The Canyon is a cutting-edge drug rehab center in Southern California, just outside of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains. We offer a wide variety of alternative or nontraditional therapeutic options, allowing patients to customize and create a drug addiction treatment program that works. If you have any questions about what we have to offer, contact us at The Canyon today.

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2012). National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS): 2011. Chapter 4: Facility Characteristics and Services. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2017 from

[2] SAMHSA. (2016). Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2017 from

[3] Kaskutas, Lee Ann; Bond, Jason; & Weisner, Constance. (2003). The Role of Religion, Spirituality and Alcoholics Anonymous in Sustained Sobriety. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2017 from

[4] Reardon, Christina. (2013). Alternatives to 12-Step Addiction Recovery. Social Work Today. Retrieved Mar. 1, 2017 from