Alternatives To AA

by Josh

Although there are millions of people who swear by AA (alcoholics anonymous), its not for everyone.

With so many variables involved, and so many self-interested parties, there really is no scientific consensus on whether AA has better success rates than other forms of treatment.

Even though AA has helped a lot of people, there are also plenty of reasons why someone might want to find an AA alternative.  For example, here are some principles taught in AA that have been the subject of controversy:

  • Alcoholism is a disease that can only be conquered by spirituality
  • You have no power over alcohol, your only hope for recovery is by surrendering to a higher power
  • Alcoholics cannot quit drinking on their own - the 12 steps are the only way
  • Abstinence is the only way

Critics point out that there are plenty of people who don’t turn to spirituality to conquer alcoholism, that people can spontaneously improve even without formal recovery groups, that AA diffuses the alcoholic’s personal responsibility for their sobriety, and that abstinence is not necessarily the only way to get better.

How To Stop Drinking Without AA

At the moment, there are no recovery treatment programs anywhere near the influence AA has in the United States.  In fact, the 12 Steps approach has been so influential, that the approach is used in over 90% of treatment programs in the United States.

Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS)

While Alcoholics Anonymous is non-denominational and atheists are certainly welcome, there’s no denying that it has a very spiritual, God centered focus.  Not everyone wants a God or spirituality-centered approach to recovery.

If you’re looking for a non-religious alternative to alcoholics anonymous, look for a Secular Organizations For Sobriety group in your area.  This organization takes a self-empowerment, non-religious approach to recovery which is very different than AA, but which has shown to be just as – if not more – effective.

SOS’s stated principles for example, include the following:

  • SOS believes in the self-empowerment approach – the individual (not a higher power) is credited with maintaining sobriety
  • SOS respects all paths to recovery and is not opposed to other recovery programs
  • SOS supports healthy skepticism and the scientific method in understanding alcoholism and recovery
  • Although SOS believes that maintaining sobriety is ultimately a personal responsibility, SOSS believes that social support is important to recovery.
  • Sobriety should be the #1 priority in a recovering addict/alcoholic’s life – this menas 100% abstinence.

If you’ve been avoiding AA because you don’t like the spiritual aspect, or the forced acknowledgement of powerlessness, then then SOS might be a good alternative.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (counselling technique)

Motivation enhancement is a treatment approach developed by psychologist William Miller.  Rather than dictating to alcoholics the approach they should follow, this technique initiates behavioral change by using motivational interviewing strategies to generate internal motivation in the patient to make changes.  The patient is also given new coping skills to help them through recovery.

Motivational enhancement therapy consists of an initial assessment session with the therapist, and then 2-4 individual treatment sessions.  This approach has been used successfully to improve treatment in alcoholics and other drug users.

The motivational enhancement approach might be a better choice for people who don’t like the “acknowledge that you’re powerless” aspect of AA, or who would prefer individual counselling to recovery groups.

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