Non-12-Step Group Therapies For Alcohol Recovery

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Non 12 Step Group Therapies for Alcohol Recovery

While 12-step group therapies like Alcoholics Anonymous are hugely successful, not everyone has the ability to attend the meetings at the times posted, or may choose a non 12-step group for a variety of other reasons. There are other programs dedicated to recovery from addiction that are similar in structure, but may offer more flexibility or a different approach that is more appealing for some.
Some of the most popular evidence-based programs are SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, and Moderation Management. These programs offer a variety of formats from online to regular face-to-face meetings and provide support to a broadening group of people seeking help outside of the traditional 12-step model. Each program model may be used in conjunction with other support programs and therapies. All are free and open to anyone seeking sobriety.

SMART Recovery

Self Management for Addiction Recovery Training (SMART), known widely as SMART Recovery, is a program whose underlying philosophy differs substantially from that of the 12-step. Whereas the 12-step program focuses on a need for the individual to acknowledge a power outside of themselves to overcome the addiction, SMART Recovery focuses on an empowerment model.

SMART Recovery, like the AA model, relies heavily on regular meetings and a peer network of support, but the primary focus is on developing reliable coping techniques, rather than on a continuum of support through long-term participation in group meetings. The program focuses on four primary areas: building and maintaining motivation, coping with cravings or urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and creating balance within a person’s life. The program also supports use of SMART Recovery in conjunction with other therapies and medications.

Someone participating in a Smart Recovery program can access information online, attend daily meetings, utilize the program’s message boards and chat rooms, and works on a wide range of addiction issues.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety, also known as “Save Our Selves” or SOS is an alternative program to the traditional 12-step, for those who seek a secular empowerment model. Like the 12-step program, SOS views alcohol addiction as a disease or ailment from which a person is never “cured.” The program recognizes genetic and environmental factors that impact the severity of the addiction. Rather than apply a step-by-step approach to achieving sobriety, SOS focuses on a three-part management strategy that is followed routinely. The first step is the acknowledgement of the addiction, the second is acceptance of the addiction, and the third step is making sobriety a priority.

Regular meetings are designed to build peer-to-peer support that may extend indefinitely as a mode of encouragement. Similar to other alternatives to the traditional 12-step program, SOS meetings are held face-to-face and online. Individuals are encouraged to utilize additional therapies, as desired.

The vast majority of participants in SOS programs are self-described atheist, but approximately 20 percent of those surveyed describe themselves as “spiritual.”

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A secular peer-to-peer recovery program, LifeRing’s focus is on changing the “addict self” into a “sober self” through positive interactions with others seeking sobriety. This peer-based support system mirrors the 12-step group meetings, but without the emphasis on a “higher power.” Similar to the SMART Recovery, LifeRing provides an online format, regular meetings, and encourages individuals to utilize the program either alone or in conjunction with other therapies.

Women For Sobriety

Research has shown that women choose to begin drinking for very different reasons than men. Women are more likely to use alcohol to numb the effects of past traumas, rather than bolster their self confidence. As a result, therapies designed to empower women and improve feelings of self worth while also addressing past traumas and improving coping strategies are more effective in helping women achieve and maintain sobriety. The organization’s motto, “Release the past, plan for tomorrow, and live for today,” emphasizes this philosophy.

Similar to the traditional 12-step program, Women for Sobriety relies on peer-to-peer networking with regular face-to-face meetings and provides online meetings and support for those unable to attend in person. Rather than encouraging the 12-steps, individuals participating in the program are encouraged to read daily from provided literature, and to participate in mediation or reading from literature promoting self growth and empowerment. The organization’s “New Life” program is based on 13 acknowledgements, as part of an acceptance and empowerment structure. These acknowledgements are designed to acknowledge the reality of the situation, as well as the possibilities, and inspire positive change. For example, the sixth acknowledgement, “Life can be ordinary or it can be great,” is met by, “Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.”

As with Alcoholics Anonymous, these steps or acknowledgements can serve as powerful mantras for the individual seeking sobriety.

Moderation Management

Not many programs exist for people classified as problem drinkers, but who may not yet be coping with addiction. Moderation Management is designed to address issues arising before a person becomes addicted to alcohol, or in the early stages of addiction.

The program is designed to focus on behaviors associated with problem drinking. Assessing the level of problem drinking and associated factors, Moderation Management supports early development of coping strategies and life changes that aid in helping someone in avoiding the life-threatening disease of alcoholism.

The group format includes regular face-to-face meetings, and online meetings and support. Members may or may not choose to go on to a treatment program or other group support program.

Recovery From Alcohol Addiction

Contact Alcoholtreatment.netof the programs mentioned in this article may be used alone or as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. is an online resource connecting you with the professional support and evidence-based treatment options available in your area. If you are suffering with an addiction to alcohol, don’t wait to get help. Contact today and begin a new and rewarding life in recovery.

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