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Why Are Twelve Step Programs Not Right for Everyone?

Why Are Twelve Step Programs Not Right for Everyone?

Twelve Step programs are a well-known, effective method of helping people overcome alcohol and drug addiction. While hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from this type of approach, that doesn’t mean it’s the best-fit program for everyone. To better understand if this type of program will benefit an individual’s recovery journey, read on about what Twelve Step programs are and what benefits they can pose for lasting sobriety.

What Are Twelve Step Programs?

The most popular Twelve Step program was created through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Within this model, people who cannot control their alcohol use attend meetings to “expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to recover from alcoholism.” This method is a similar approach to group therapy, in which people share their experiences and learn from others who are in comparable situations.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains, “Twelve-step facilitation therapy is a clinical intervention developed to increase a patient’s active involvement in a 12-step group such as AA. Increased attendance at group meetings can, in turn, facilitate decreases in alcohol consumption.”

The Benefits of Twelve Step Programs

There are many benefits of Twelve Step programs. For example, Twelve Step programs can:

Create Community

One of the biggest benefits of Twelve Step programs is that they create community. They help people feel understood instead of isolated, as they share their struggles and triumphs with others who are on a similar journey. Having peers who understand the nuances and layers of addiction is a very important aspect of the healing process. Statistics repeatedly show that people with strong support systems have a higher chance of recovery compared to those that don’t.

Foster Flexibility

Additionally, the flexibility of this model can be very appealing. People can typically attend these meetings at no cost, on their schedule, and with anonymity. This empowers people to take charge of their healing, especially those who wouldn’t normally be able to afford treatment. It also allows people to attend meetings when they’re able, as many meetings occur on weekends and evenings.

Moreover, this flexibility is especially helpful for people who work full-time or have familial responsibilities. Furthermore, most programs do not have a set number of meetings that must be attended within a certain time frame, which can be beneficial for those that want to heal on their terms, in their own time.

Provide Effective Treatment

Twelve Step programs are also known to be very effective when used properly. NIAAA reports, “A systematic review found that together, clinically-delivered twelve-step facilitation and AA can be as effective as cognitive behavioral or motivational enhancement therapy at reducing drinking intensity, promoting abstinence, and reducing alcohol-related consequences at 12 months.”

Twelve Step Programs as a Complementary Approach

Research also shows that Twelve Step programs can be extremely effective when used in conjunction with other treatments. Twelve Step programs can complement other therapeutic techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectal behavior therapy (DBT). Using the Twelve Step philosophy can give the patient a sense of belonging as they bond with peers and learn how to implement healthy habits into their everyday lives.

Why Twelve Step Programs Aren’t for Everyone

One of the arguments against the Twelve Step program model is that it can lack customization. This is especially true if no other therapies or services are being utilized. Every person, addiction, and diagnosis are unique, and therefore, one-size-fits-all programs can fall short.

Treatment centers are more likely to offer individualized care, where the patient and clinicians can work together to create a plan of care for the patient’s specific needs and goals. In addition,  Twelve Step programs may not have the resources to properly address any co-occurring disorders that may be influencing addiction.

The Challenges of Co-Occurring Disorders

When two or more diagnoses influence each other, this is referred to as co-occurring disorders or comorbidities. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “When two disorders or illnesses occur in the same person, simultaneously or sequentially, they are described as comorbid. Comorbidity also implies that the illnesses interact, affecting the course and prognosis of both.”

Additionally, NIAAA confirms, “Alcohol use disorder (AUD) often co-occurs with other mental health disorders, either simultaneously or sequentially. The prevalence of anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders is much higher among persons with AUD compared to the general population.”

If the whole person (the body, mind, and soul) is not properly cared for, the likelihood of healing healthily is much lower. This is where licensed clinicians play an irreplaceable role in providing proper diagnoses and trauma-informed care.

How Sage Recovery Is Different

Here at Sage Recovery, we believe that there are multiple pathways to healing. We know the effectiveness of Twelve Step programs, however, we also understand that they may not work for everyone. This is why we pride ourselves on offering innovative, holistic approaches to treatment, as it ensures that individuals receive the individualized, customized care that they deserve. Our master’s level clinicians specialize in multiple therapeutic approaches, including:

Healing from addiction can be difficult, and finding the right treatment can feel overwhelming. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be done alone. Here at Sage Recovery, we offer holistic treatment options to ensure long-lasting healing. Our entire staff is trained to provide trauma-informed care, so you can know you will always be treated with dignity and respect. Our compassionate, empathetic clinicians are experts in their fields and highly trained to offer evidence-based therapeutic techniques such as EMDR, CBT, and DBT. We also offer unique services such as acupuncture detoxification, equine therapy, dietitian-planned and professional chef-prepared meals, and much more. Reach out at (512) 306-1394 when you’re ready to begin healing. We’re here for you.