What Are the Alternatives to 12-Step Recovery?


The 12 step model of addiction recovery is probably the best-known in the world. This is mainly because the approach has been used as a direct route to addiction recovery for many years since it was founded in the mid-1930s. Essentially, 12 step is a faith-based peer recovery and self-help program.

The traditional approach no longer specifies God as the higher power and these days 12 step members are simply required to have faith in a spiritual entity. This is integral to 12 step programs because participants are called upon to ask their higher power for help in overcoming substance abuse. If a person does not have unwavering faith in a particular being or entity, non 12 step rehab is much more likely to resonate with them.

In this article, we take a closer look at five non 12 step programs including:

  • SMART Recovery
  • LifeRing
  • Women for Sobriety (WFS)
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
  • Moderation Management (MM)

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a non 12 step rehab program that is founded on the findings of scientific research. This means that the techniques and methods promoted by this non 12 step recovery program are evidence-based which means there is proof to show that they work. SMART Recovery has four key areas of focus:

  • Motivating change, building on it and maintaining it over the long-term
  • Coping and managing cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Regulating thoughts, emotions and behaviors for healthier responses to stressors
  • Learning how to live a balanced life and making the necessary adjustments

SMART Recovery differs from 12 step programs in that it respects the use of medications as part of addiction treatment. It is also a progressive non 12 step rehab program with protocols that evolve in line with scientific research.


LifeRing is basically an online addiction community that has local meetings held at numerous locations across America. LifeRing is a secular program that offers non 12 step rehab that is based on the power of the individual to heal themselves.  LifeRing is essentially a self-help group that encourages members to maintain sobriety by enhancing their “sober self”. The idea is that each person has a sober side, even when in the grips of addiction. Through enhancing a sober lifestyle, addictive behaviors are slowly replaced with healthy ones which form the basis of LifeRing’s non 12 step programs.

Women for Sobriety

Many research studies acknowledge that drugs and alcohol have a different effect on women than they do men. This is mainly to do with the lower tolerance level of a woman and the fact that their bodies assimilated substances faster than for men. Women also turn to drugs and alcohol in response to more emotionally-driven reasons than men which is why a gender-specific support group such as WfS can be invaluable.

WfS is a non 12 step recovery program that uses acceptance statements and affirmations to empower its members to focus themselves on positivity rather than negativity. The theory is that thoughts and actions have the potential to be self-destructive which is exhibited clearly in addictive behaviors. WfS seek to empower women to overcome their challenges to allow them to work on their spiritual and emotional growth without using substances.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety is not one single non 12 step program but a collection that are all autonomous from each other. SOS provides resources on non 12 step programs and other secular addiction recovery groups which it hosts online. People are able to use SOS to find access to the most appropriate recovery support group for their personal beliefs and organize face-to-face meetings to help promote long-term recovery.

Moderation Management

Moderation Management takes a completely different approach to recovery support to other groups in that it does not require members to be completely abstinent. As its name suggests, this group focuses on reevaluating the relationship a person has with drugs and alcohol to allow them more control over when they use them.

By reinforcing and encouraging positive lifestyle changes, Moderation Management acknowledges that people have a propensity to take control of their lives despite substance abuse.  MM is essentially a program that brings together people into a mutually supportive community that supports moderating alcohol intake rather than abstaining completely. Although this is a non 12 step recovery program that is not for everyone, many people find it possible to reduce their alcohol intake with the support of MM, particularly if they have a milder form of addiction illness.

Recovery Support Now More Accessible than Ever

Once a person has completed an addiction treatment program, there are numerous resources available to them for support in recovery. These days groups can be accessed online or via apps which make them available to people who can’t be physically present for meetings. Counseling and therapy can also be delivered efficiently using apps and IM programs so that recovering addicts have access to full support at the times they need it.

Author Bio:

Evie Mills is a Business Consultant based in Perth, Australia. Her key areas of interest are human resources, management and accounting. In her free time, she loves listening to music and play with her cute dog.

Image Credits: Recovery from Marjan Apostolovic/Shutterstock


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