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Assessing 12-Step Programme Alternatives

For many people, the 12-step programme offered by Alcoholics Anonymous will fit the bill in helping them sustain their recovery. However, the 12-steps won’t be to everyone’s liking. This is perfectly fine. After all, a number of viable alternatives do exist.

In this post, we aim to discuss the various alternatives that exist to the 12-step framework. We believe there is no ‘right path’ when it comes to defeating alcoholism, and we encourage our readers to at least investigate a few of the programmes that exist for this purpose rather than settling for the first one that’s offered.

Over the last few years, rehab clinics have offered individual therapy as a way of defeating alcoholism. Another alternative is group therapy. Both individual and group therapy sessions are known for implementing ‘evidence-based’ treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Another method is the BRENDA approach. BRENDA incorporates counselling and medication in helping participants overcome alcoholism.

Perhaps the biggest ‘rival’ to the 12-step model is that offered through SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery focuses on self-empowerment and mutual support groups. SMART Recovery also incorporates evidence-based treatment in the way of Rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT). Unlike the 12-steps, SMART Recovery shuns spirituality and religion when it comes to helping members overcoming alcoholism.

Below, we discuss three of the most common 12-step alternatives:

  1. SMART Recovery: Like Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery relies on the community factor when helping members build lasting sobriety. SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training). SMART’s focus is on helping members build motivation, overcome urges, manage feelings and live a balanced life. SMART Recovery began life in 1992 when it was founded by a physician named Joseph Gerstein. SMART Recovery also offers online meetings as well as the more traditional face-to-face meetings. SMART Recovery is open to those who experience any form of addiction including alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction etc
  2. BRENDA: This popular method is used to treat addiction and a range of mental health problems. BRENDA consists of six core concepts that must be tackled during the programme. These concepts include Biopsychosocial evaluation; Report to the patients on assessment findings; Empathy; Needs identified by patient and treatment provider; Direct patient advice; and Assessing the patient’s reaction to advice and adjusting treatment when needed. BRENDA heavily relies on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is an advancement of REBT that’s used by SMART Recovery. CBT aims to change negative thoughts and beliefs through therapist-led sessions
  3. Rational Recovery: this approach makes use of counselling, guidance and direct instruction in helping members overcome addiction and embracing sobriety. Rational Recovery was founded in 1986 by a social worker named Jack Trimpey in California. The underlying premise behind this approach is that members wish to sustain their abstinence but this desire is opposed by an inner ‘addictive voice’ that tells them to continue using. Rational Recovery focuses on arming members with the mental tools that are needed to sustain long-term abstinence. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, Rational Recovery does not view alcoholism as a disease. Instead, Rational Recovery teaches that addiction is a conscious choice, albeit with a genetic component

Give AA a full hearing

We would equally encourage you to participate in the 12-step programme. If you have glanced over the 12-steps and concluded it is not your cup of tea, then please give it a fair hearing. To truly benefit from the 12-steps, you need to enlist the support of a sponsor. This person is selected by yourself, and you will choose this person by attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in your local town or city.

Once you have chosen a competent sponsor, you will then need to work through each of the 12-steps with this person. You need to bear in mind that the sponsor is also working the 12-steps by providing you with this help, because step 12 states ‘Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs’.