Are Non-12 Step Programs the Future of Rehab?

June 1, 2017
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Drug addiction is a serious epidemic that plagues 23 million Americans. Many Americans have benefited from treatment in rehab, but the effectiveness of some rehab programs could be improved.

One of the drawbacks of traditional rehab programs is that they focus almost exclusively on 12 step programs.  Although these programs are great for some people, they don’t work well for others. Some rehab centers are taking a new approach.

Benefits of Non-12 Step Programs

The first 12-step program was developed over 80 years ago by Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith. The two were childhood friends that wanted to find a treatment program for people struggling with the pains of alcoholism.

Wilson himself was an addict and turned to his friend, Dr. Holbrook for support. “On a chill November afternoon in 1934 it was Ebby who had brought me the message that saved my life,” he said in a testament to Holbrook.

The two developed Alcoholics Anonymous, which became the most popular addiction treatment program in the world.

Traditional 12-step programs focus on placing treatment in the hands of a higher power. Non 12-step programs don’t necessarily contradict this philosophy, but they don’t strictly align with that either. They typically tailor the treatment program to the individual.

Here are some ways these new programs are different.

Evidence-Based Treatment

Marketing literature from Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs invariably emphasizes anecdotal results and testimonials from their members. However, very little research has confirmed the effectiveness of these programs. Therefore, they have very few statistics on the overall effectiveness of their treatments.

Clinicians are researching addiction in more detail and developing more evidence-based treatment. Non-12 step programs are designed around empirical research.

Individualized Treatment

While many people have benefited from traditional 12-step programs, others have found them to be ineffective. The reality is that everybody is different. Treatment approaches that work for some people are ineffective for others.

Non 12-step programs can be built around the needs of every member. Some do rehab centers and focus on treating certain demographics of addicts, so they can create a treatment regimen that is ideal for most members.

Appeal to Secular Members

Addiction is a widespread problem that has inflicted itself upon people of all faiths, cultures, ages and social classes. The 12-step programs were designed by highly spiritual treatment providers. They appeal to people practicing a faith, but not as much to those leading a more secular lifestyle.

Non 12-step programs are more geared to atheists and agnostics. Since they don’t have an emphasis on a higher power, these people are more likely to turn to them.

Focus on Underlying Causes

The conventional belief is that addiction is a chemical, genetic based disease. While this is true for many people, it may not be true for everyone. There are other factors that can influence addiction, such as PTSD, grief of loss, stress from work and an inability to fight social pressure to participate.

Non-12 step programs tend to focus more on these factors than A.A. and other rehab programs.

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