Blog | Addiction Recovery

Alternatives to a 12-Step Program

If you struggle with substance abuse or addiction, you’ve likely heard that the secret to winning the battle against your addiction is using the 12 Steps.

Whether the 12 Steps you’re using have been adjusted for a process addiction, like gambling, they remain the most widely implemented treatment module for alcoholics and addicts. However, a 12-step program is not the only available program on the market. There are alternatives available that do not include spirituality with the addiction recovery process. As a result, the alternative approaches to the traditional 12 Steps cater to the mindset of logical addicts and alcoholics on the spectrum of afflicted individuals. Let’s look closer at a few of these methods.

The SMART Recovery model

SMART recovery model groupSMART is an acronym for Self Management And Recovery Training. SMART advocates point out their model’s effectiveness in keeping abreast of current research in the addiction and alcoholism fields. They base their recovery guidelines on science rather than spiritual principles. In addition, SMART’s face-to-face forums are open to discussion among members. While Alcoholic Anonymous meetings often require members to refrain from “cross talk” or exchanging narratives throughout the course of the meeting. SMART recovery is more lenient than a traditional AA meeting. Conversation is welcomed with open arms as long as it is conducive to the topic at hand.

SMART is based on scientific research, advocates the appropriate use of prescribed medications and psychological treatments. SMART also teaches members the tools to cope with stress in a healthy way. SMART groups even touch upon alternative venues for which to have fun in sobriety.

Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery (RR) is another alternative approach to the 12 Steps. This approach utilizes Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT). RR trains participants to distinguish between the healthy, logical side of their brain and the unhealthy hemisphere.

Rational Recovery builds many of its lessons around the premise that the addictive voice, routinely personified as “the beast” which is an evil creature that dwells within all human beings as a byproduct of instinct. “The beast” seeks pleasure whether the source is from sex, drugs, or fluids. The ability to quiet the beast is where true self-discipline and AVRT techniques are put to the test.

Rational Recovery tries to narrow down addiction and alcoholism into simple blocks of distinguishable features that make it manageable for members on a daily basis. Rational Recovery is controversial in the sense that it dismisses the disease concept of addiction. Instead, this approach considers addiction to be a lack of self-will.

Many find this message to be somewhat offensive. For instance, as the authors of Rational Recovery describe the beast, they write,

“Your survival appetite is aimed at the wrong stuff, to be sure, but addiction is more a reflection of health than of a mysterious disease. The desire for pleasure fades among sick or diseased people, further suggesting that addiction is a reflection of health rather than a disease process.”

In RR, some call the human mid-brain “the party center,” because of the bond between pleasure and addiction. Of course, it is often quite stupid (self-defeating) to act on healthy desires or impulses, as in substance addictions. Adjectives such as “stupid” and “ridiculous” are commonly utilized in the context of describing traditional methods of alcoholism and addiction treatment, i.e. the 12 Steps.

Accelerated Recovery

Accelerated Recovery claims to have the best non-12-step approach to breaking dependence on alcohol. This program treats the physical and psychological problems alcoholism but does not focus on spirituality. As you can tell, less God and more science is the trend among non-12-Step recovery approaches.

There will always be alternative approaches to the 12-steps cropping up. It is important to remember that recovery is not just about stopping one isolated behavior (drug use) but learning a new way of life.[1] Human beings love to debate, and the 12-step modality as the gold standard is a topic of no exception.

No matter what approach you find is the best fit for you, it is important to get sober.

Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior.[2] If you need help with a substance abuse problem, please reach out to one of our admissions coordinators. We are there to answer any questions you have and can even help you determine what forms of treatment are covered by your insurance. Don’t wait. Make this important call today.


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201211/why-the-hostility-toward-the-12-steps Why the Hostility Toward the 12 Steps? Sack, David. Published on Nov 20th, 2012.

[2] https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction Treatment Approaches For Drug Addiction.