What Are My Options For Non-12 Step Recovery?

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So, you’re interested in changing your relationship with alcohol, but you’re not sure if 12 step recovery is a good fit. Are there other options, and do they work? 

Absolutely! There are a wide range of non-12 step treatment programs, including secular support groups, evidence-based behavioral health strategies, telehealth, and more. The best fit for you depends on your needs and goals. Here are some of the biggest reasons people look beyond the 12 steps, and some of the most effective alternatives.

What Is 12 Step Recovery?

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12 step recovery programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), are abstinence-based peer support groups that help people recover from substance use disorders. In these programs, people frequently attend meetings to share their experiences in a caring and supportive environment, encourage one another, and learn coping skills to achieve and maintain sobriety.

These programs are rooted in the 12 steps, a set of guiding principles for overcoming addiction. Originated in the 1930s by AA founder Bill Wilson, the 12 steps include taking personal inventory, making amends, and turning control over to a higher power. The higher power doesn’t have to be a religion. It can be anything greater than yourself, such as the universe, nature, or even the 12-step community.

The 12 steps work well for many people, but they don’t work for everyone. Recovery is not one-size-fits all, and it’s important to find an option that meets your needs and will help you achieve your goals.

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Why You Might Want To Attend a Non-12 Step Program

12 step programs like AA are often effective,1 and many people benefit from the camaraderie and support they provide. However, there are several reasons that these programs aren’t the right fit for others.

Reasons People Don’t Fit Within the 12 Steps

Abstinence-Only Approach

12 step recovery programs are abstinence-only, with a focus on helping people stop drinking alcohol for a lifetime. For some people, learning to drink in moderation is a more reasonable and effective approach.

Emphasis on Spirituality

Although the higher power referenced in the 12 steps doesn’t have to be religious, the spiritual side of the program is uncomfortable for some people. If you don’t have a strong connection to a higher power, many of the 12 steps may not resonate with you.

Sharing with a Group

In 12 step programs, people openly share their recovery journeys and personal feelings with the group. Support group-based recovery may feel uncomfortable for people who don’t like discussing their alcohol use with others. 

Benefits of Stepping Outside of the 12 Steps

Depending on your personal needs and preferences, the benefits of non-12 step recovery programs may include the following:


Outside of group-based recovery, you’ll receive more personalized care. Treatment can be customized to meet your unique goals, overcome personal challenges, and help you stick to a plan that’s right for you. 


Individualized recovery also allows for more flexibility. Often, you can set your own goals to either cut back on alcohol or stop drinking entirely. With many programs and methodologies, you can arrange treatment around your schedule, rather than attending meetings at pre-scheduled times.

Progress Monitoring

Because programs like AA are anonymous, these organizations don’t keep track of individuals’ baselines. Your baseline is the status of your vital signs when you begin treatment, which includes initial blood alcohol level. Your progress isn’t monitored as time goes on, so it’s more challenging to determine what’s working and what isn’t. In many non-12 step treatment programs, you’ll have help tracking your progress and adjusting as needed. 

Higher Level of Care

12 step programs can be beneficial, but many people need a higher level of care to achieve lasting recovery. In fact, 12 steps programs get the best results when used in combination with other programs and methodologies. You may benefit more from access to medical professionals, recovery coaches, tracking tools, and other resources.

Non-12 Step Rehab Options

If you’re interested in non-12 step rehab options, there are many groups and programs worth looking into. 

Secular Groups

If you like the support groups-based approach to recovery, but are uncomfortable with AA’s emphasis on spirituality, consider a secular support group. These groups typically offer peer-to-peer support, meetings, and resources. They do not involve belief in a higher power. 

Like AA, most secular support groups also emphasize abstinence. Some options, like Moderation Management, focus on helping you reduce your drinking enough to limit alcohol’s negative impact on your life. Many of these groups are based on a different set of steps intended to guide people toward lasting recovery.

Secular support group options include:

  • SMART Recovery
  • Moderation Management
  • Women for Sobriety
  • SOS Sobriety
  • LifeRing

Non-12 step rehab programs

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But what if support groups in general aren’t right for you? In that case, consider some of the many available non-12 step rehab programs and treatment methodologies, including the following:

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) provides a “whole-person” approach to recovery. It combines counseling and behavioral therapies with medications like naltrexone, which can help people manage cravings and reduce the urge to drink. MAT programs are tailored to the individual needs of each patient to help them achieve lasting change. 

Evidence-Based Behavioral Health Strategies

Evidence-based behavioral health strategies for alcohol treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and motivational interviewing

CBT helps people break down and understand their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, in order to deal with overwhelming problems in a healthier way. DBT is a form of talk therapy focused on principles such as mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation. And motivational interviewing is designed to help people find their motivation to make a positive behavioral change.

Even yoga, meditation, and art and music therapy have been cited as effective strategies for treating alcohol misuse. 

Non-12 Step Telehealth Treatments

Telehealth programs provide an innovative approach to alcohol treatment. Many of these programs do not rely on the 12 steps, and encourage people to set their own goals for either moderation or abstinence. 

With programs like Ria Health, you can access expert medical professionals, medications like naltrexone, recovery coaching, and support groups from a convenient app on your smartphone. You can get treatment whenever it works for you, from anywhere with internet access.

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Are 12 Step Programs Right for You?

12 step recovery programs work for many people. But if you’re uncomfortable with spirituality, prefer to drink in moderation, or don’t like to discuss your personal feelings with a group, these programs may not be a good match for you. 

Fortunately, there are many effective alternatives, including secular support groups and non-12 step telehealth programs. These alternatives offer personalization, flexibility, progress monitoring, and a higher level of care. Ria Health combines these benefits with medication, recovery coaching, ongoing support, and more to create a personal recovery plan that works for you—all delivered 100% virtually.

If Ria Health sounds like a good fit, speak with a member of our team today.


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Written By:
Ashley Cullins
Ashley Cullins is a writer with a passion for creating engaging, understandable content on complex topics like addiction and mental health. She has over five years of experience writing for healthcare websites and publications. Having experienced addiction first-hand in her family, Ashley deeply connects with Ria Health’s mission to make treatment easier and more accessible. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, reading, and cooking.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.

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