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Learn / Non-12-Step: A Different Take on Addiction Treatment

Non-12-Step: A Different Take on Addiction Treatment

Kayla GillKayla Gill


Kayla oversees RehabPath’s content strategy and creation. She holds over 6 years of experience in the rehab space, including in-house content management at a luxury treatment center and founding a rehab-specialized content marketing agency. She believes addiction and mental health issues are universal human experiences that can serve as important entry points onto a path towards self-realization and wellbeing. Kayla travels excessively but calls Northern Thailand home, and studies yoga, dance, and martial arts.
 Published October 5th, 2018|  Professionally Reviewed By 
Olivia Mueller

 Reviewed by Olivia Mueller on October 5, 2018

Olivia holds over 10 years of experience in the addiction treatment industry and a Master’s in Addiction Studies from King’s College London, University of Adelaide, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

12-Step programs have been a vastly popular component of addiction recovery for the past 80 years. There are over 118,000 Alcoholics Anonymous chapters around the world, and introducing yourself in front of a group of AA meeting attendees has become virtually synonymous with sobriety. But since its inception in the 1930s, a plethora of other models of addiction recovery have become available—many of which are secular, evidence-based, holistic or otherwise offer a completely different approach to treatment that you may find appealing if the 12 Steps aren’t your thing. Let’s take a look at a few:

Common Non-12-Step Therapies

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivational enhancement therapy1 is designed to encourage internal change that happens quickly as opposed to gradually and step-by-step, as with the 12 Steps. It typically entails an assessment in the first therapy session, advising on coping strategies to use in high-pressure situations, and tracking progress throughout the subsequent sessions (of which there are only a handful). This approach uses motivational interviewing techniques to inspire change, and sometimes involves loved ones in treatment.

Biomedical or Medication-Assisted Therapy

This approach takes a logic-based view of addiction as something “broken” that can, in turn, be fixed. According to clinicians who use pharmacotherapies, medications can be used to correct chemical imbalances in the brain that may make certain people more susceptible to addiction. One example of this would be, which prevent opioid users from feeling the drug’s narcotic effects, thus helping them taper off it. Or, antidepressants may be given for co-occurring depression, thereby lessening its tendency to exacerbate an addiction. Medications are often used in conjunction with other approaches like talk therapy.

Neurofeedback Therapy

This method operates on the premise that addiction stems from a state of being either over-aroused (which leads people to self-medicate with depressants) or under-aroused (which lends itself to stimulant abuse). By using EEG sensors to monitor brainwave activity and rewarding the brain for calming itself, neurofeedback therapy “rewires” the neural pathways created during substance abuse, essentially training the brain and nervous system to remain in a calmer state. This approach encourages higher-frequency brain waves, which help improve mood, focus and energy levels.

Holistic and Alternative Therapies

Holistic therapies are designed to complement and enhance conventional therapies like CBT by uplifting your overall state and making you more receptive to other aspects of your treatment regimen. They use methods like mindfulness, spirituality and energy work to enhance your health and wellbeing as a whole. In rehab, holistic approaches see addiction as a symptom of broader mental, physical and spiritual unwellness and aim to treat the effects of addiction on those aspects of self. Holistic therapies come in a wide range of forms like massage, yoga and reiki. Take a deeper look at holistic therapies here.

Considering A Non-12-Step Program

The 12 Steps work great for some, while they don’t fully resonate with others. How do you know if a non-12-Step program is right for you? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Have you already tried the 12 Steps? If you’ve gone to 12-Step meetings many times before or 12-Step based programs and experienced recurring relapse, it may be time to try something else. Keep in mind, though, that relapse is often part of the recovery process—if you felt momentum with the 12 Steps, then it may be best to stick with it.

Are you concerned about co-occurring disorders? The 12 Steps alone is unlikely to fully address trauma, depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns that may co-occur with addiction. However, many rehabs use the 12 Steps in conjunction with other methods—just be sure the center you’re considering specializes in co-occurring disorders, as these are highly complex and require sophisticated treatment.

Explore Non-12-Step Luxury Treatment Centers

While the 12 Steps (or elements of it) are widely used in rehabs worldwide, there are certainly many centers that take a vastly different approach to addiction treatment. In fact, luxury rehabs employ the most innovative treatment methods and specialty programs available. If you found the 12 Steps didn’t work for you, it may be worth looking into rehab programs with different treatment philosophies. To learn more, visit our directory of luxury rehabs who offer non-12-Step approaches here.

  1. NIDA. “Motivational Enhancement Therapy (Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 Jun. 2020, []

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