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Aftercare Programs that Don’t Follow the 12 Step Recovery Model

Many aftercare programs require some sort of continued treatment, even if it isn’t in a formal treatment facility. For many individuals, the 12 step model is the most common treatment used in aftercare whether they are staying in a sober living facility, a halfway house, or their treatment was merely set up by the doctors and nurses at their former facility. There are some aftercare programs, though, that don’t follow the 12 step recovery model, and some individuals may prefer them.

Why Choose a Program that Doesn’t Follow the 12 Step Model for Recovery?

The 12 step recovery model is, according to the NIDA, what “the most well-known programs” like Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc. are based on. “This group therapy model draws on the social support offered by peer discussion to help promote and sustain drug-free lifestyles.” This treatment has been proven to be effective for many individuals who are in both aftercare and other crucial stages in their treatment and recovery.

aftercare in addiction treatment

While 12 step programs are the most pervasive aftercare programs, other programs do exist.

However, some individuals do not want to receive this type of treatment and, instead, would rather have a different type of recovery model or aftercare program that does not follow the principles of the 12 steps. There are many reasons why a person might feel this way.

  • The 12 step program carries a “religious aspect and emphasis on powerlessness” (NCBI). Several of the 12 steps have to do with giving your life over to a higher power, understanding that you cannot fight your addiction on your own, and other agreements made in a religious or spiritual fashion. For many recovering addicts, this is a comfort, but for others it can be a hindrance.
    • Some individuals do not find comfort in religious or spiritual teachings because of their own preferences or pasts. This is partly why 12 step programs aren’t for everyone.
    • Many agree that the “emphasis on powerlessness can be dangerous.”
  • The NCBI states, “Major obstacles to participation [are] centered on motivation.” If the patient does not have the motivation to attend a 12 step program, much of its power to heal is dissolved as participation in this type of program is largely voluntary.
  • Some individuals in aftercare may have tried the 12 step approach before and relapsed back to drug abuse. They will often not be partial to starting over in the program from the very beginning.
  • The fact that the 12 step program is one of the most used treatments in aftercare programs leaves out a large group of individuals who cannot or do not wish to participate in that particular program.
  • According to another study from the NCBI, “Interestingly, there is a notable lack of research on 12-step-based programs which have for nearly three decades been the most prevalent model of treatment” which may have its own issues.

For one reason or another, many individuals do not feel comfortable with attending or continuing to attend aftercare programs that follow the 12 step recovery model. These programs for the most part include:

  • Sober living facilities that encourage 12 step treatment
  • Halfway houses that encourage 12 step treatment
  • Individual counseling that encourages 12 step treatment
  • 12 step programs like AA, NA, etc.
  • The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Program in the prison system

Aftercare without the 12 Step Recovery Model

According to the NCBI, “Optimism was positively associated with successful outcome” in drug addiction recovery and aftercare treatment. In order to help this occur, the right aftercare program goes a long way. There are ways you can find aftercare without the 12 step recovery model, but because so many aftercare programs use it, you may have to look around for awhile before you find the best program for you. Still, it is best that you feel good about your aftercare program and continued recovery plan so that your optimism can help your recovery overall.

Aftercare programs that don’t involve the 12 step model can be found in several ways.

  • If you are considering staying at a sober living house or another kind of recovery facility, understand that some SLHs “strongly encourage” the 12 step model while others emphasize its teachings and expect mandatory involvement in a 12 step program (NCBI).
    • Ask if attending a 12 step program is mandatory or just encouraged at the specific facility. You may even be able to attend another type of treatment entirely, like behavioral therapy. In many cases, your sober living facility roommates and caregivers will merely want to see that you are pursuing further treatment.
  • Consider outpatient treatment, especially if you are leaving inpatient treatment at the moment. According to the NIDA, “group counseling can be a major component” of outpatient treatment which does not necessarily mean the 12 step model will be used. “Some outpatient programs are also designed to treat patients with medical or other mental health problems in addition to their drug disorders.”
  • Many individuals prefer group therapy on its own without the use of the 12 step method. These groups do exist, and “currently, researchers are testing conditions in which group therapy can be standardized and made more community-friendly.”
  • There are even support groups that do not follow the 12 step model. Some of these are:
    • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
    • Self Management for Addiction Recovery (SMART Recovery)
    • Addiction Alternatives
    • LifeRing Secular Recovery
    • Exposure Response Prevention
  • Other aftercare alternatives that stress attending a 12-step program, like SLHs or individualized drug counseling, might allow you to attend one of the support groups listed above if you prefer them. Make sure you research each and decide which is the best for you.

Not all aftercare programs need to follow the 12 step recovery method, although many do. Because of this, it may seem like it is the only treatment available or that it is the best. Just remember that the best treatment is the one that works for you, and this applies to aftercare as well.

The NIDA states, “No single treatment is appropriate for everyone,” and “matching treatment settings, interventions, and services to an individual’s particular problems and needs is critical” to their ability to heal. Even after treatment, this still must be the priority of a patients care plan: to be appropriate for the patient over all else.

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