6 Alternatives to 12-Step Programs

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other 12-step programs have nearly become synonymous with recovery and can be found all over the world. 12 steps have even been integrated into many addiction treatment centers but is there anything else out there? Though 12 steps are very popular, they are not a sure-cure for addiction nor do that have overwhelming evidence of being truly effective. Recovery is different for every person, so luckily there is a program out there that would fit your style and taste. There are actually many alternatives to 12-step programs available. Every program has suggestions and ideas that can help promote growth, self-help, and camaraderie.

Many people do not exactly fall in-line with the idea of a “higher power” or the idea of “helplessness,” which is why so many other groups have sprouted over the last few decades. Some people prefer to fully rely on faith and religion, so there are groups out there for those people as well. Many groups have become very popular and can be found almost as commonly as AA or NA. So what are some specific groups that are alternatives to 12-step programs?

SMART Recovery

SMART is one of the most popular alternatives to 12-step programs in the world. It began specifically to challenge the ideas of AA, in particular, the idea of “helplessness.” SMART promotes self-help and the “power of choice” opposed to helplessness over addiction or alcoholism. It is a nonprofit organization that promotes self-empowerment and camaraderie among its members. They offer face-to-face meetings, 24-hour chat rooms, and an online message board. SMART Recovery promotes research and science based ideas and welcomes new discoveries in the effectiveness of addiction treatment. SMART has a 4 Point Program, which is:

  1. Obtaining and maintaining motivation
  2. Learning to manage urges
  3. Handling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors
  4. Finding and striking balance in life

Similar to AA, SMART holds groups with introductions, speakers, and discussions. Typically, a group will also have a social hour so members can get to know each other. It is confidential and free to join. Opposed to AA, SMART often assigns homework and workshops for its members.

Women For Sobriety

Also known as WFS, Women For Sobriety is the first addiction recovery fellowship to act as an alternative to 12-step programs that is dedicated solely to women. It is a nonprofit organization that is free to join. The program is based on their 13 Acceptance Statements, which promote self-growth, positivity, and responsibility. Its main objective is to enable women to change their thought process to promote behavioral changes that will increase happiness and health. The group holds regular meetings for women to share their stories, advice, and messages of hope. Meetings are also focused on WFS literature. Each meeting, every member introduces herself and says one positive thing about themselves, called a “stroke.”

friends at a park

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

SOS is a nonprofit organization network of autonomous groups that promote abstinence from drugs and alcohol. They formed specifically to act as a secular alternative to 12-step programs. It is free to join and groups hold meetings regularly that promote camaraderie and self-growth. The group does not hold itself to one set of doctrine or ideals but, rather, is open to new discoveries and research in the field of addiction treatment. The program is science based and encourages its members to research new ideas. Each meeting begins with celebrations of milestones and follows with discussions and group activities. The group promotes members to hold each other accountable and share their strength and advice with others.  


LifeRing is another secular alternative to 12-step programs. LifeRing promotes its members to find their own path to recovery and to share it with other group members. It is free to join and focuses on positivity, self-reliance, and camaraderie. Groups hold regular meetings with discussions so members can share advice and things that work for them.

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a faith-based alternative to 12-step programs. Celebrate Recovery still applies and focuses on the 12 steps found in AA meetings but is strictly Christian based. They rely heavily on the Bible and teachings of Jesus Christ, opposed to traditional “higher power,” found in other 12-step groups. Celebrate Recovery often has a sermon like a traditional church service but also focuses on addiction recovery.

Moderation Management (MM)

MM is a more controversial alternative to 12-step programs. MM is designed for people who believe alcohol has caused negative consequences for them but they do not believe they are truly alcoholic. The program helps individuals learn tools to promote self-growth, positivity, and accountability. Their philosophy reads “Participants are asked first to abstain from alcohol for 30 days, and during this time they are encouraged to think about how drinking has affected their lives and under which circumstances they had been drinking. After the 30 days of abstinence, participants are given guidelines about how to drink moderately. Participants who have trouble keeping their drinking moderate are encouraged to consider complete abstinence.”

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own personal path in recovery.  You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.