If you have been wondering if treatment and recovery programs for substance abuse apply only the 12-step model, you are not alone. Many people come online to find out if there are other alternatives to the 12-step program. Some consider it too long, while others think it is too intense, primarily because of the spiritual aspect.

The good news is that many treatment programs do not use that model, which originated with Alcohol Anonymous. Rehab centers use different treatment methods to accommodate the specific needs of the people needing treatment, as you will see in this article. A few even create special programs that are unique to their facilities. But the goal is the same: recovery from addiction and general mental and physical wellness.

What Is a Non-12-Step Rehab Program?

A non-12-step rehab program does not rely on the 12-step model of recovery from addiction that is common in many rehab centers. These programs understand and value the support from a community of people encouraging each other while in recovery. But they want nothing to do with a power higher than themselves, which is the basis of 12-step programs.

In other words, their methods stem from principles different from the more common step-by-step program. Each rehab center may tailor its programs differently, but the general guide remains the same. The principles that drive these rehabs are basically:

Motivation. The person who wants treatment for substance addiction must find something to motivate them. They must have a personal motivation to drop the destructive habit and take up healthier ones. These motivations usually come from seeing the adverse effects of the habit on the person’s life and the lives of loved ones.

Personal Responsibility. This principle means the person must take personal responsibility for the life they live, the work it will take to recover, and continued abstinence, instead of handing the control of the process over to someone else or power outside themselves.

Balance. It helps if the person finds a balance in their life during and after the recovery program. The balance can come from having an active and healthy lifestyle and active participation in support groups.

How It Works

There is a marked difference between this program and a 12-step rehab program. For the former, the reliance is on a higher power, whether it is the Christian God, universe, nature, or the support group to which a person belongs. But the latter bases its program on self-reliance. The person seeking treatment and recovery must look to themselves for the strength they need to overcome. 

While both programs use support and peer groups, one believes it will find purpose from something bigger than an individual. In contrast, the other believes a person can find the motivation in themselves if they can take full responsibility. Then, they will find balance for a better and healthier life.

You can try several options to overcome addiction if you do not want to use the 12-step model or go to rehab. They include:

  • Yoga classes. They will help improve your mental and physical health.
  • Adventure therapy. If you are adventurous, you may find that going on adventures may help reduce your reliance on harmful substances. You can also try it even if you are not ordinarily adventurous.
  • CrossFit workouts. It is a strength and conditioning type of workout and requires a lot of concentration and strength. Exercising is one way to live healthier and avoid substance abuse.
  • Nutritional programming. It may help change destructive habits through specific dietary practices. Check this out: to learn more about nutritional practices and how they help bad lifestyle traits.
  • Art and music therapy. You may find them as individual therapies or as one. Channeling your strength and focus to these therapies reduces dependence on substances.

Support groups may encourage these practices while also asking you to attend meetings if they believe they will help quicken recovery and foster long-term abstinence. But they may never take the place of coming to meetings.

Why You Should Choose a Non-12-Step Program

There is one primary reason to choose a non-12-step program over a 12-step program for recovery from addiction, and that is faith. Many people entering these recovery programs do not know some options do not focus on spirituality. As many as forty percent of people who have addictions and join 12-step programs have little or no interest in religion.

If you or someone you know need an alternative, you will find several programs that follow other models without spirituality. These programs also encourage abstinence and better mental health without focusing so much on a higher power. The upside of non-12-step programs is a rise in the general sense of self-empowerment. Individuals come out feeling and knowing they can take care of themselves without falling prey to destructive habits.

Benefits of Choosing a Non-12-Step Rehab Program

If you are addicted to drugs or any other harmful substance and go for a non-12-step inpatient rehab program, the following are possible benefits accruing to you:

  • You are more likely to discover the root of the problem and tackle it. This is because you are encouraged to take responsibility for the issue and motivate yourself to recover.
  • An increase in self-empowerment. Instead of leaving the matter in the hands of someone else, you become accountable and develop self-esteem.
  • Your family becomes part of your support system, and it plays a vital role in your recovery as they help you along the journey.
  • It helps your belief that you can control your life and addiction; it is not stronger or bigger, and you can subdue and overcome it.


It is excellent to know there are alternatives to the popular 12-step rehab program. They are called non-12-step programs and are pretty effective in treating addiction. The programs have little or nothing to do with a higher power helping you find your path, but they encourage self-reliance. But know that each recovery program has its benefits, so choose according to your specific needs.