Not Another Checklist – Why 12 Step Programs Aren’t the Best Choice
Thanks to the popularity of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other similar addiction treatments, 12-step programs have become practically synonymous with addiction recovery. A majority of addiction treatments throughout the country are affiliated with these organizations or utilize their methods. Unfortunately, 12-step programs do not always provide the best path toward recovery. In fact, they can be actively harmful.
These programs draw on outdated methods and theories originating in the 1930s. They ignore the scientific advancements in addiction research and offer solutions that are not grounded in modern psychology. Additionally, the spiritual component involved in these programs can be a turn-off for some people, actively dissuading people who need treatment from pursuing it. For these reasons and more, non 12 step addiction treatment is the best choice for many recovering addicts. There are, in fact, many problems with 12-step programs that you may not realize.
Difference Between 12 Step and Non 12 Step Programs
Alcoholics Anonymous was the first program of its kind and has provided a blueprint for 12-step programs ever since. When the program was formed in the 1930s, it was generally assumed that addiction was the result of a moral defect and could be cured through willpower alone. By attending meetings led by others in recovery, these programs provide moral support and accountability to encourage abstinence from the damaging substance. They also encourage addicts to place faith in a higher power and accept that they are powerless.
Today, we know a lot more about the science of addiction. We have a greater understanding of psychology and the way addiction fundamentally alters the structure of a person’s brain. Based upon this knowledge, non-12 step programs can provide science-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and customized treatment plans that are built around an individual’s needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Most of these programs will incorporate some form of group meeting to provide a safe space for discussion and moral support, but these meetings will make up just one part of a holistic and integrative therapy.
Some people find that belief in a higher power can provide comfort and assurance throughout the difficult recovery process. Many science-based programs still encourage individuals to embrace spirituality. By removing it as a requirement for recovery, however, these programs can reach out even to those people who would otherwise reject the teachings of a faith-based plan.
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Problems and Dangers of 12 Step Addiction Treatment
One of the biggest problems with 12-step doctrine is that it preaches powerlessness. An early step is to accept that there is a higher power and that the addict is not responsible for his or her own choices. In some ways, this makes sense: The program encourages abstinence by teaching users that they are powerless to resist drugs or alcohol and thus must completely avoid them.
Unfortunately, this can make users prone to falling back on old habits after a moment of weakness. This all-or-nothing approach to substance use can lead people to give up on recovery completely after a single slip-up or stumble. Programs like AA have a very low success rate due in part to this focus on powerlessness.
These programs have other problems that may make them a poor choice for some people:
- They are generally led by volunteers rather than medical professionals.
- They utilize a one-size-fits-all approach rather than tailoring treatment to an individual’s situation.
- They offer no integrated treatment for mental health problems.
- They focus on willpower rather than training the brain to make different choices.
Addiction is complicated, and no two people experience substance abuse in the same way or for the same reasons. For example, some people develop substance abuse problems in an effort to self-medicate their other psychological issues. Taking away drugs from these people without providing them with the mental health treatments and support they need will set them up for failure. Many other factors, including socioeconomic status and brain chemistry, can affect the likelihood of addiction.
The most successful drug rehab programs will recognize the differences between patients and take a more holistic approach to treating each individual. By placing recovery in the hands of a medical professional who understands the science of addiction and rehabilitation, the best and most long-lasting results can be obtained.
For more information about our program and how we differ from other types of recovery centers, contact us today.