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Over 80 years after being founded, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other 12-Step programs continue to dominate the world’s addiction landscape. Despite the fact that 12-Step drug rehab is not for everyone and there are now numerous alternatives available, it remains the model for outpatient alcohol treatment for the majority of hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers.

This makes 12-Step recovery programs the default option for many people struggling with substance use despite there being little evidence to support its efficacy. That said there is no doubt the program works for thousands of people and that has much to do with the following factors:

Accessible Meetings and Groups

As a result of being a driving force against substance abuse for the past 8 decades, the 12-step recovery program is known around the world. There are groups and meetings across all continents offering people easy access to support towards sobriety.

The accessibility of 12-step drug rehab makes it an easy and practical option for people struggling with substance use, particularly if they have spiritual beliefs that resonate with the program. People are much more likely to thrive in sobriety if they feel help is close at hand and 12-step’s sizeable network of groups has proven to be a comfort to many.

Timeless Principles

There are many people who believe in the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and this certainly applies to 12-step which has been using the Big Book as a model for recovery support since the 1930s. Essentially, the 12-step rehab program incorporates timeless principles of improving personal relationships, shifting focus away from the “self” and restoring faith and balance in the lives of a recovering addict. These principles resonate with a large number of people abusing substances, particularly if they feel their lives have been destroyed as a consequence of their negative behavior.

Encouragement and Camaraderie

12-step groups encourage individuals to share their experiences with others so that everyone is collectively motivated towards achieving and maintaining sobriety. Individuals in 12-step drug rehab are exposed to other like-minded people who are going through similar issues as themselves. This opens the doors to form very close bonds as members of 12-step groups support each other as they work through the program. Many of the relationships formed on 12-step rehab programs continue to blossom for a lifetime.

When a person has spiraled into addictive behavior, they tend to become isolated and withdrawn from those close to them. This leads to them bottling-up emotions and becoming frustrated with themselves and their destructive behaviors. 12-step re-socializes people who have been struggling alone by introducing them to others on the same path. The environment created by 12-step is such that individuals find a true sense of belonging from which they can build a firm foundation for the future.

What Do Alternatives to 12-Step Recovery Offer?

The main reason 12-step rehab programs don’t appeal to everyone seeking outpatient alcohol treatment for substance abuse is that it is faith-based. Although when first founded, 12-step was based on Christian principles, the program now embraces other faiths although there is one significant condition. The condition on which a person is able to commit to the traditional program is if they accept the existence of a “Higher Power.” Whether this higher power is a person, an object, a concept or energy is entirely up to the individual. However, their faith in this being has to be sufficient that they are prepared to submit themselves to their authority in order to achieve sobriety.

This is usually the point where people who aren’t necessarily spiritual or have no particular belief-system switch off to 12-step recovery programs.

Because the traditional recovery model doesn’t resonate with as many people as perhaps it did in the past, more people are embracing other options. It is important that patients in rehab understand and identify with the treatment approach of the center they’ve chosen in order for it to be most effective. Some individuals are more comfortable on a secular program that doesn’t have any spiritual or religious associations, some prefer to be the same-sex environment of gender-specific treatment and others favor the holistic or complementary approach.

At Elevate we offer holistic treatments in combination with evidence-based therapies to heal addiction. Whereas the 12-step approach considers an addict to be the victim of a disease they are powerless to heal alone, we recognize addiction as an illness that can be most effectively treated when done so holistically. Holistic rehab places the individual in central focus and heals them emotionally, physically and psychologically using natural therapies. Only faith or belief in yourself is required to successfully complete an Elevate program and move on into a healthy sobriety.

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