An Overview of Non-12-Step Support Groups

Recovery GroupsThe 12-Step model is a popular approach to addiction recovery, and many people find the support structure they need in groups that are based around it, but it is not the only viable treatment option. The road to recovery is different for everyone who suffers from addiction, and some individuals do not thrive in a faith-based approach like the 12-Step program. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 27 million people over the age of 12 used an illicit drug in a 30-day period in 2014. Though the number of people who suffer from substance use disorders is much smaller, it is no surprise that individuals stemming from a population so large have many different needs.

Alcoholics Anonymous is the original 12-Step support group, and it can be part of an effective aftercare plan. According to a review originally published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, roughly 25 percent of subjects who did not attend a 12-Step support group like AA remained sober for one year, while nearly 50 percent of those who had attended were still sober after the same amount of time. Not everyone benefits from following the 12-Step model, but most people need some kind of support structure in place that they can draw strength from when they experience triggers that make them want to use again.

Non-12 Step Groups

Here is a list of five non-12-Step support groups that individuals have found success with on the road to recovery:

1. Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women overcome alcohol and drug addiction by providing a safe space for members to share their experiences and encouragement with one another. It was founded in 1976 by Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick, a woman who struggled with severe alcoholism for decades at a time. Dr. Kirkpatrick believed that women suffering from addiction have different needs than men, and she wanted to address them through Women for Sobriety.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction treatment should take into account the biological, social, and environmental differences between men and women. For example, women who abuse drugs are more likely to experience physical or sexual trauma as a result of their addiction than men are, and they may need treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

WFS focuses on helping women replace self-destructive thought patterns with more constructive ones, and it relies on 13 positive affirmations to increase self-worth, promote emotional and spiritual growth, and live in the present. Like other mutual support groups, WFS groups are run by a moderator in a conversation-like format and usually have 6-10 participants.

2. Moderation Management

Moderation Management was established in 1994 and is designed for individuals who acknowledge that their drinking is affecting their life in a negative way and who want to moderate their consumption before they can no longer control it. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol consumption in moderation is not a problem. When individuals frequently drink to the point of intoxication though, they risk developing both short-term and long-term side effects of alcohol abuse.

Participants begin the Moderation Management program by abstaining from drinking for 30 days. During this abstinence period, they are encouraged to examine how alcohol has affected all aspects of their lives, as well as which circumstances prompt them to drink the most. After the 30 days are up, participants receive guidelines on how to drink in moderation. Those who struggle with controlling their drinking are encouraged to abstain from alcohol entirely.

This approach to drinking has proven to be fairly effective for some individuals. According to a study originally published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, participants who used the online resources provided by Moderation Management and a web-based protocol called Moderate Drinking experienced a reduction in alcohol-related problems and abstained from drinking on more days than the control group did.

3. SMART Recovery

Founded in 1994, SMART Recovery has a four-point program that focuses on developing and maintaining the motivation to stop succumbing to cravings and to abstain from other types of addictive behavior. SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, and it relies on methods often used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing to prompt positive changes in the lives of its participants. Some strategies of Motivational Interviewing that SMART Recovery participants can use to elicit change in others are:

  1. Asking evocative, open-ended questions
  2. Exploring the pros and cons of both staying the same and changing
  3. Exploring potential themes, like triggers, that always lead to using
  4. Looking back and discussing a time before the addiction developed
  5. Looking forward and exploring how certain scenarios might pan out
  6. Examining goals and values

Unlike 12-Step support groups, whose principles have remain unchanged since the program’s inception, SMART Recovery makes an attempt to evolve with the latest scientific discoveries in addiction treatment.

4. LifeRing

LifeRing was formed in 2001 and takes a secular approach to sobriety with its tenants of sobriety, secularity, and self-help. Individuals who do not like the faith-based approach of traditional 12-Step groups appreciate LifeRing’s methods for saying sober, which rely on the strength of human efforts and not on divine intervention. People from all faiths are welcome, and participants help each other find the motivation needed to abstain from both drugs and alcohol.

5. Celebrate Recovery

Individuals who are not opposed to a religious approach to recovery but have not been able to find success with the 12-Step program might find it with Celebrate Recovery. This Christian support group is part of the Saddleback Church of Rick Warren, who wrote The Purpose Driven Life. Its eight principles for recovery are based on the beatitudes in the Bible, and though it has its own step system, it is different from that of Alcoholics Anonymous. The steps in the Celebrate Recovery program aim to treat people with addictions of all kinds and strive to free them of past hurts, hang-ups, and habits.

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The Importance of an Aftercare Plan

When it comes to addiction treatment, the exact components of an aftercare plan don’t matter nearly so much as establishing one in the first place. Individuals who are in recovery are one trigger away from feeling the urge to use again, but with an appropriate aftercare plan in place, which might include a mutual support group, they are often able to find the strength and courage to avoid relapse. There are dozens of different kinds of mutual support groups all over the country, and if the 12-Step model does not appeal to people while in treatment, they can pursue other avenues of support, like the ones listed above, once they return to their everyday lives.

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