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The 12 step approach to addiction recovery has been portrayed many times in popular media since it was first founded in 1935. As a consequence, it is probably the best-known system for addiction recovery support in the world. Support groups and 12 step recovery programs are both integral components in effective rehab from substance abuse for many people all over the world, with meetings accessible to even the most remote communities.

The two best-known 12 step programs for substance abuse are:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)

Many thousands of people have actively engaged in achieving recovery supported by these programs and gone on to enjoy years in sobriety. The value of 12 step recovery support is in its collaborative nature which brings addicts together to support each other in achieving common goals. The 12 steps are often incorporated into 12 step recovery programs because many aspects of the traditional system are still relevant today.

One of the most significant benefits of 12 step groups is their accessibility. Group meetings are free and the only condition of attending is sobriety. Elevate sometimes directs clients leaving rehab to 12 step groups in their area as a component of aftercare or outpatient alcohol treatment which continues to support them at home. Because a 12 step rehab program is essentially voluntary, individuals are able to continue to engage with its community for as long as they need or want to.

Are There Alternative Support Groups?

The short answer is yes. However, 12 step rehab programs are not for everyone. Many people today recognize addiction as an illness rather than a weak moral foundation. As attitudes have changed, more alternatives to 12 step rehab programs have emerged including the following:

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART)

SMART is an alternative approach to 12 step that includes an in-person meeting component together with various internet-based support groups. SMART is focused on educating recovering addicts on practical skills and also assists in developing a sense of empowerment and control over their substance abuse.

Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS)

As its name suggests, SOS is a secular group that provides a supportive environment for people in recovery. SOS differs from 12 step rehab programs in that it doesn’t involve sponsors or mentors in the way the traditional method does. There is also no religious or spiritual component in an SOS support program.

Rational Recovery (RR)

The RR system of recovery support is entirely different from others as it does not use a group approach at all. Instead, the emphasis is on self-management and individuals are required to take responsibility for their own recovery. The RR approach does not recognize addiction as an illness and promotes the idea that recovery is the responsibility of the individual rather than the group as a whole. This contrasts quite strongly with 12 step drug rehab.

What Are the Benefits of 12 Step Support Groups?

Although there is much research to show that 12 step programs are not effective for everyone, there is much anecdotal evidence to suggest otherwise. Much depends on the views of the individual concerned and whether they respond well to following a systematic approach to addiction healing.

For an increasing number of people, the fact that every member works through the 12 steps in order and in the same manner is not effective. Addiction is an intensely personal issue that affects people in quite different ways and so often, a personalized approach to recovery is more appropriate.

That said, there are distinct benefits of 12 step recovery programs including:

  • Individuals are totally immersed in a community of non-users
  • 12 step drug rehab offers individuals a sense of belonging
  • Mutual support is used as a tool to motivate  continued sobriety
  • Making friends is easy as everyone has shared beliefs
  • AA and NA groups help to de-stigmatize substance abuse
  • Members are helped to regain control of their lives and take responsibility for their future
  • Individuals gain acceptance of their substance abuse issues

12-Step Programs as a Part of Treatment

There are several aspects of 12 step programs that are used in all types of rehab such as accepting responsibility for one’s behaviors and making changes to improve them. Because 12 step drug rehab is not in itself addiction treatment, it is often offered as a support component of outpatient alcohol treatment or aftercare when people are leaving rehab.

Due to the complex nature of addiction and the way substances work on the brain to create their effects; treatment is almost always required in order to overcome the illness. For many people, going “cold turkey” and enrolling in group meetings is not sufficient to help them prevent relapse or maintain sobriety for the long-term. Thankfully, for this increasing number of people, there are plenty of treatment paths available to them.

When choosing the right support group after rehab, it is vital that individuals are aligned with the methodology used. For people with spiritual beliefs in a higher power, 12 step recovery programs are a natural choice and for others, there are plenty of medical, holistic or alternative support options.

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