While many understand the need for an abstinence-based program, not everyone prefers the spiritual approach taken by 12-step programs such as AA. SMART Recovery prefers a more scientific approach, rooted less in tradition and more subject to change as new scientific research on addiction is conducted. Rather than the 12-step approach, they focus on four basic goals. The first is to build motivation. Second, SMART Recovery members learn to deal with their cravings to use. Third, they focus on maintenance of behaviors, feelings and thoughts. Finally, they try to live by the principle of balance. By utilizing methods rooted in behavior and cognition, their overall goal is the development of responsibility and self-control.
Not everyone who prefers non-12-step programs is looking for a secular support group. Celebrate Recovery caters to addicts and alcoholics who seek a solution based in Christian principles. They actually do utilize a 12-step system, but they focus less on the steps themselves and more on the scriptural principles they believe to support them. They further distinguish themselves from groups such as AA by broadening their focus to include all unhealthy behaviors, rather than any particular addiction. Christians who recognize their substance abuse as a symptom of greater internal struggles may enjoy what Celebrate Recovery has to offer.
Other Non-12-Step Programs
Some non-12-step programs are even broader in their focus. For instance, while Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) offers some guidelines for maintaining your recovery, they do so without utilizing a firm structure. LifeRing Secular Recovery, an offshoot of SOS, focuses primarily on self-help. The group offers support, but their approach to recovery focuses largely on the addict’s own work in recovery. Women for Sobriety uses affirmations rather than steps, and believes that women achieve sobriety largely through emotional empowerment. Finally, Refuge Recovery uses a Buddhist-inspired approach to recovery, with the first half of each meeting focusing on meditation rather than sharing. Despite being among the most popular non-12-step programs, these groups can be much harder to find than programs such as AA and NA. Those who agree with their primary philosophies, however, may find them highly beneficial.