What are the similarities and differences between a 12-Step Program and a Non-12-Step Program?

Some drug and alcohol rehab programs follow a model of treatment established by 12 Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), while other substance abuse rehab programs don’t follow the 12-step model. The question then becomes, what are the similarities and differences between a 12-Step Program and a Non-12-Step Program?

What is a 12-Step Program?

A 12-step program is a series of steps, or guidelines, that were created to help people overcome alcoholism, and ultimately, all forms of substance abuse. The 12 steps were originally created by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). 

An important detail about the 12 steps is that it is spiritual by nature. This is because the 12 steps often rely on spirituality to help people with substance abuse issues rid themselves of guilt and view their substance abuse issues as a sickness that they need to receive help treating, through both addiction treatment and looking towards a higher power. 

The spiritual nature of 12 step programs also helps provide people in addiction recovery with a constant sense of hope as spirituality gives them something to constantly look towards for extra guidance when they have no control over the things that are going on in their lives. 

What Are the 12 Steps?

The 12 Steps that were created for Alcoholics Anonymous and later adapted for all 12 step substance recovery programs include:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of our character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge for His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 steps speak to guidelines that individuals that are in addiction recovery should try to follow within their own lives. The idea behind the 12 steps is that following them will help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety and live their best, healthy lives. For guidelines for people that are in addiction recovery that are more group-focused, one should look towards the 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What Are the 12 Traditions?

The 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous are similar to the 12 steps in that it is a set of guidelines for people in addiction recovery. The main difference between the two is that the 12 steps are for individuals in addiction recovery to follow, while the 12 traditions are more general and group-focused. This is because the 12 traditions are derived from the Big Book, otherwise known as the main governing literature of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

The 12 traditions are:

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority–a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose–to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need to always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

A 12 Step Program vs. a Non 12 Step Program

While so many successful rehab programs follow the 12 steps, there are also successful forms of addiction treatment without 12 steps. Thus, what are the similarities and differences between a 12 step program and a non 12 step program? Also, what allows for both of these types of programs to be successful despite their differences? 

Similarities Between a 12 Step Program and a Non 12 Step Program

Although addiction treatment without 1 step doesn’t follow the same foundational guidelines that 12 step programs do, the end goal of both types of programs is the same, to help people with substance abuse issues achieve and maintain sobriety. Thus, there are going to be similarities between these two types of programs. Some of the key similarities between a 12 step program and a non 12 step program are listed below.

  • Both programs help individuals overcome addiction through a support network of people who share similar challenges.
  • Both types of programs utilize the guidance of a moderator or counselor.
  • They both share the same principle of confidentiality.
  • They both aim to help recovering individuals understand what it means to live a life without drugs, alcohol, or process addictions (such as gambling and sex addiction).
  • Both types of programs have shown to be more effective when combined with other treatment therapies such as private counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication therapy. Together these programs and therapies form effective and comprehensive addiction treatment programs for struggling individuals.

Differences Between a 12 Step and a Non 12 Step Program

Just as there are similarities between 12 step programs and non 12 step programs, there are also differences. Some key differences between these two types of rehab programs are listed below.

  • Spiritual approach. The 12-Step program requires that individuals admit they are powerless over their addictions, and a higher power can restore them healthy lives. A non-12 Step program, on the other hand, does not require participants to surrender their lives to God or a higher power.
  • A non-12-step program promotes practicality in recovery, as well as empowering the individual to help maintain his/her own sobriety.
  • The power of the individual to overcome addiction. In the non-12-step program, the power of the individual and the action that he or she takes play a more prominent role in his or her recovery. These actions include the choice of nutrition, daily exercise, medical care, and counseling, while the 12-Step programs use “helplessness” and “forgiveness” to allow the recovering individual to recognize the flaws within him or herself that caused him or her to abuse substances in the first place.

What’s Right for You, A 12 Step Program or a Non 12 Step Program?

Could a 12-step program be right for you? Some critics of 12-step drug treatment programs are leery of their emphasis on God. Over time, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has adopted a spiritual focus. Members of AA can define the higher power in their own way, though. 

The success of a 12 step program and addiction treatment without 12 steps is determined by how well the principles work for each unique individual. Thus, one type of rehab program may be more effective in helping a particular individual maintain sobriety than the other.

Receive 12 Step or Non 12 Step Programs At Florida Center for Recovery

Here at Florida Center for Recovery, we offer both 12 step and non 12 step programs. Thus, you can choose which types of programs best suit your needs. All while still receiving top-notch addiction treatment at our nationally renowned rehab center. 

Would you like more information about Florida Center for Recovery? Learn about our all-inclusive detox and 12 step inpatient rehab programs or our inpatient addiction treatment without 12 steps. All you have to do is contact us. Our staff is more than willing to answer any questions that you may have.

The Joint Commission accredited and certified Florida Center for Recovery, which sets the standard for delivery of safe and effective care of the highest quality and value for our clients.

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Providing Addiction & Mental Health Treatment Since 2002