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, like Alcoholics Anonymous, while other programs structure treatment differently. So what are the similarities and differences between a 12-Step Program and a Non-12-Step Program?


  • Both help individuals overcome addiction through a support network of people who share similar challenges
  • Utilize the guidance of a moderator or counselor
  • Share the same principle of confidentiality
  • 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).
  • Shown to be more effective when combined with other treatment therapies such as private counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication therapy, which together form an effective and comprehensive addiction treatment program for struggling individuals.


  • Spiritual approach. The 12-Step requires that individuals admit they are powerless over their addiction, and a higher power can restore a healthy life, but the non-12 Step programs do not require participants to surrender their life to God or a higher power.
  • Non-12-step 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 that cause him/her to use in the first place.

Could a 12-step program be right for you? Some critics of 12-step drug treatment programs are leery of its emphasis on God. In the many decades since the beginning, Alcoholics Anonymous has adopted a spiritual focus. As a result, members of AA can define the higher power in their own way. The success of each program is determined by how well the principles work for each unique individual. It is believed that for different individuals, one program may be more effective in maintaining sobriety than the other.

Florida Center for Recovery (FCR) offers 12-step addiction treatment programs as well as the non-12-Step Program SMART Recovery. If you would like more information about FCR and our all-inclusive detox and inpatient rehab programs, contact us today by calling 800-643-4005.

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