Study Shows Alternatives Just as Successful as 12 Steps

The first thing most people envisions when they think of alcohol treatment: the ubiquitous 12 steps. From movies to culture all around the world, it’s clear that the traditional 12 step model currently holds first place in popularity. But studies repeatedly show that the 12 step model of treatment leaves at least two-thirds of its clients wanting more, and a full third report that the 12 step program didn’t help them at all. In a country that is facing an increasing number of citizens seeking help from the chains of addiction, a treatment model that fails so many just isn’t enough.

Studies look at outcomes of 12 step alternatives


A new study on the effectiveness of treatment options other than the 12 steps shows once again that alternatives are just as effective than the traditionally used model. Whether it’s the spiritual aspect of the 12 steps that are a turn off—a main component of the program is giving up control of your life and embracing a higher power—or the long term commitment to weekly meetings, it’s clear that we need more alternatives…and that those alternatives need to be taken seriously by clinicians and professionals who recommend treatment programs for clients.

“We don’t have anything that works for everybody,” says Keith Humphreys, a drug policy expert at Stanford University in a recent interview with Vox. “There’s very few places in medicine where you do.” Yet the current standard seems to be to throw everyone, regardless of their struggle, their spiritual beliefs, or their mentality about alcohol and treatment into the same base program, and it’s a huge disservice to many at a time when they need personalized treatment and understanding about where they are the most.

Most programs are the same program

Survey data shows that most treatment programs in the United States are based at least in part on the 12 steps—adjuvant therapies such as equine therapy or wilderness settings may differ from program to program, but the base premise still relies  on working the steps. This means that even if a person attends multiple rehab programs, they’re still essentially getting the same treatment plan of the 12 steps. This can often lead to extreme frustration and even depression over multiple “failures” in multiple treatment facilities, not realizing they may just be in the wrong program for them. While alternatives certainly do exist, they typically aren’t built into full treatment programs the way the 12 steps are, and exist only as alternative “meetings”, which often aren’t enough.


This is part of what makes Centered Recovery Programs unique in a sea of similar programs. Our mindfulness-based program was developed in conjunction with peer-reviewed research studies of what works in recovery, with particular regards for the population who find the 12 steps treatment model lacking or unusable. We offer a complete program with rigorous educational classes and interpersonal processing along with group and individual therapy, all led by treatment industry professionals. Our goal is to provide hope for people who may have tried again and again with the traditional method, to help them see that they aren’t a failure for struggling with the steps, and to help every person who walks through our door see that true mental and physical health is completely possible.

We applaud researchers who are willing to illuminate the fact that substance abuse treatment in this country is potentially being stifled by those who think there is only one way to view recovery.

At Centered Recovery, we know that sobriety is within you.We can help you find it.