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American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Non-Religious Alternatives to 12-Step Rehab Programs

Non-religious rehab programs can benefit individuals who prefer a non-faith-based approach to recovery. Although religion or a belief in a higher power may be an integral part of some addiction treatment approaches, like 12-Step programs, there are also many non-12-Step recovery programs that are not based on faith or religion. Keep reading to learn more about non-religious addiction recovery options.

What Are Non-12-Step Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Non-12-Step rehab programs are non-religious and not based on a particular faith or involve the concept of a higher power.1 They do not require people to work through the 12-Steps of recovery as originally outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and they take a secular approach to recovery that typically relies on personal power and responsibility.1

For some, the spiritual and religious approach can be beneficial by bringing about improved life satisfaction, fostering a sense of belonging through social connection, and potentially improving physical or mental health.2, 3 However, while many programs incorporate a religious element, the principles of effective substance use disorder (SUD) treatment do not specifically state that spiritual or religious-based interventions are required for evidence-based treatment, but are rather based on the unique needs of the individual.2, 4

What Is a 12-Step Rehab Program?

The philosophy of 12-Step rehab programs is based on the 12-Steps of recovery and principles initially outlined by AA.5 In the 12-Step model, people are encouraged to view addiction as a disease that can be managed but never eliminated, surrender to a higher power, play an active role in helping others recover, and attend regular meetings.5

In addition to AA, other common 12-Step programs include Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and Al-Anon, which is for friends and family members of people with addiction.5

AA and other 12-Step programs incorporate language that involves the concept of God or a higher power. However, people can involve the concept of a higher power in a definition that works best for them.6

Types of Non-Religious and Non-12-Step Addiction Recovery Programs

There are many types of non-12-Step and non-religious alcohol recovery programs that are available for those who prefer a secular approach to recovery. These programs do not involve working through the 12-Steps of recovery and are not based on the concept of a higher power.1 Instead, the emphasis is on encouraging a person’s sense of internal control and supporting personal empowerment.1 Ideas such as addiction as a lifelong battle or labels like addicts or alcoholics are generally not used in non-12-Step programs.1

Some of the more common non-religious drug rehab programs include:1

  • SMART Recovery.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery.
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS).
  • Women for Sobriety.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training.7 It offers an evidence-based secular approach to recovery from addictions of all kinds; while religion and spirituality is not a component of SMART Recovery, people may use personal or religious beliefs as a part of their own recovery if they wish.7 People can choose to also participate in NA or AA or other 12-Step programs if they so desire.7

SMART Recovery is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), non-confrontational motivational enhancement, and other principles, and involves the concepts of personal responsibility and self-empowerment.7 People can choose to see addiction as a disease or not.7

SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program is designed to help people:7

  • Build and maintain motivation.
  • Cope with urges.
  • Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
  • Live a balanced life.

LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing Secular Recovery is a network of secular support groups for people struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.8 The LifeRing approach encourages people to work out their own path to recovery with the help of the LifeRing workbook and the use of the group process, which is led by a group leader who is also a person in recovery.8 LifeRing works through the process of social reinforcement and relies on social connection and supportive contact between meetings, but there are no sponsors as in AA or other 12-Step groups.8

LifeRing adheres to their 3-S philosophy which includes fundamental principles of sobriety, secularity, and self-help.9 People can keep their religious beliefs, but these remain private and are not a part of the LifeRing program.9 The key to recovery is seen to be abstinence and a person’s own motivation and effort.9

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety describes itself as a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local support groups that are designed to help people achieve and maintain sobriety and abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction, and more.10 People who are religious as well as those who are non-religious are welcome to attend meetings.11 The organization offers different recovery resources, such as printed and video materials, anonymous meetings, and group interaction as a way of supporting recovery.12

Women for Sobriety (WFS)

Women for Sobriety’s New Life Program is the first secular mutual support group that is designed specifically for women who are recovering from SUDs.13 The goals are to help women take responsibility for their thoughts and actions, and to provide a way for women to deal with and overcome guilt, depression, and low, or no, self-esteem that led to using substances as their primary coping mechanism.14

WFS helps promote behavioral change through four key concepts, which include:14

  • Positive reinforcement, such as approval and encouragement.
  • Cognitive strategies, like positive thinking.
  • Body-mind strategies, such as relaxation techniques, meditation, nutrition, and exercise.
  • Dynamic group involvement.

In addition to non-12-Step support groups, behavioral therapies, such as those listed below, can also benefit those who are non-religious or atheists.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is designed to help people identify unhealthy and maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, and then develop healthier and more realistic thoughts and behaviors that do not involve substance use.4 CBT can help people learn skills that are needed to remain sober and avoid substance use, develop better coping skills, and cultivate alternative ways of managing stress.4

Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is designed to help people resolve their ambivalence about making life changes.4 It encourages people to look at their internal motivations for wanting to make positive changes, such as decreasing or stopping substance use and helps them make a plan to implement those changes.4

Dialectical behavior therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is designed to reduce self-harming behaviors, such as suicidality and substance misuse, and help people work to balance acceptance and change.15 It is a highly structured therapy that emphasizes individual strengths and uses different tools, such as homework assignments, to help people develop healthier coping skills.15

Individual/group/family therapy

Different types of therapy can be provided in different settings. Individual therapy involves working one-on-one with a therapist on your unique problems and concerns, while group therapy involves working in a group with others in recovery, led by a trained therapist.16 For some people, family therapy can also be a helpful option to work through relationship issues that may have been impacted by addiction and to support healthier family functioning.4, 16

Who Should Consider Non-Religious Addiction Recovery Programs?

People who may want to consider alternatives to 12-Step programs can include those who prefer a secular approach or do not adhere to a specific religion. They may appreciate programs that are more aligned with their personal beliefs, such as relying on personal responsibility instead of a higher power. People who have previously participated in a 12-Step program and have relapsed might also be looking for another approach to treatment this time around.4

However, it’s important to understand that there are differences between religion and spirituality, and being spiritual doesn’t necessarily need to mean believing in God, but rather just connecting to something higher than yourself.3 A spiritual setting can be helpful even if you don’t have a religious belief and can offer a more holistic or mind-body focus.3 These types of settings include activities such as meditation, journaling, yoga, and other holistic components, while a more religious or faith-based program may focus on worship, teachings, and a strong belief system.3, 17

Benefits of Non-Religious Rehab and Non-12-Step Rehabs

The benefits of non-religious rehab and non-12-Step rehabs can be unique to every person, such as whether someone personally prefers an approach that is not faith-based or based on any specific religious beliefs. Regardless of the type of rehab, seeking treatment is a beneficial first step on the path to recovery from SUD.4

Some benefits of non-religious treatment and rehab can include:1

  • An opportunity to address addiction.
  • The ability to work on recovery without the inclusion of religion or a higher power.
  • Offering the most comfortable or suitable option based on your personal preferences.
  • Increased accountability and personal responsibility.
  • Working with others in a non-stigmatizing setting that does not use labels such as addict or alcoholic.
  • Providing the camaraderie and support of others who prefer a non-12-Step approach.

There are additional benefits of rehab and recovery that don’t have to do with religion, such as:

  • Helping you attain sobriety.4
  • Helping you maintain a substance-free lifestyle.4
  • Providing an individualized treatment plan that addresses issues underlying or related to addiction.4
  • Addressing co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety.4
  • Helping you work on your individual goals related to your unique needs, such as improving your physical health or career-related issues.4
  • Helping work, family, and relationship issues.4
  • Providing effective, evidence-based treatment.4, 6
  • Providing ongoing monitoring that can deter substance use.4
  • Offering tools that can help prevent or address relapse.4
  • Helping you regain control of your life.4

Find Non-Religious Drug and Alcohol Rehabs Near You

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol misuse, you should know that addiction is treatable, and people can and do recover with proper treatment.4 American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of evidence-based treatment and offers non-religious and non-12-Step options.

Please call to speak with a caring admissions navigator about your rehab options. You can learn more about our levels of addiction treatment, inpatient drug rehab programs and outpatient drug rehab programs, health insurance coverage for rehab, and going to rehab without insurance.

You can also use our directories to find non-religious rehab centers that meet your needs. You can instantly verify your insurance for rehab using our quick and easy form below.

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