Traditional 12 step and non 12 step programs share many similarities, but they can differ considerably in their overall philosophy and methods. These differences play a major role in contributing to your success in achieving sobriety, as well as maintaining it. For that reason, it’s important to understand the variations in self-help recovery programs and then select one that best matches your beliefs, values and characteristics.

12 Step or Non 12 StepWhy Join the Right 12 Step or Non 12 Step Program?

Simply, if you don’t like a group or feel uncomfortable with it, you won’t go. Individuals who join a support group that fits their preferences are more likely to attend and participate in meetings. This is a critical point when selecting a program because, in addition to attendance, studies show higher levels of participation result in increased abstinence. And after all, staying sober over the long-term is your goal!

Options and Factors to Consider

Research studies identify several reasons why individuals either hesitate to join or drop out of community based, self-help groups such as traditional 12 step and non 12 step programs. These reasons include disparity between the individual’s belief system and that of the programs, such as faith-based versus evidence-based methods. In addition, some people feel uncomfortable or perceive a lack of support due to differences in personal characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity. Others suffer from social anxiety or phobia and other similar dual diagnoses, so they find face-to-face meetings particularly difficult. Let’s take a look at these factors and your options.

1. Incompatibility with Beliefs

Traditional 12 step programs, notably Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, follow a faith-based approach. AA believes recovering alcoholics need help from a higher power, in addition to self-responsibility. Meetings may begin or close with a prayer. Many recovering alcoholics find the spiritual aspect enlightening and most helpful. However, others are less comfortable with it, preferring a secular alternative offered through organizations such as Life Ring and Secular Organizations for Sobriety, among others.

You can also find non 12 step programs, like Smart Recovery, that are not only secular, but take a science or evidence-based approach to sobriety, including the use of cognitive behavioral methods, emotional growth tools and meditation techniques.

2. Characteristic Specific Preferences

Participation in meetings involves social interaction, which can be very personal in nature, as people share their intimate stories. Because of this, some prefer to join self-help groups whose members share common traits and values. In addition, they perceive a greater spirit of camaraderieand sense of support from those of the same gender, ethnicity, religion or even profession. For example, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers offers 12 step meetings for lawyers and judges. A group for ladies to consider is Women for Sobriety. As the name implies, this recovery group addresses the special needs of women overcoming addiction.

3. Dual Diagnosis Obstacles

People who suffer from some dual diagnoses, such as social anxiety disorder tend to find face-to-face meetings challenging. Options are available over the internet through many of the same organizations mentioned previously. Members participate in online meetings, message boards and social forums through voice and text, allowing them to remain truly anonymous.

If you are like most people, you probably aren’t aware that a variety of 12 step and non 12 step programs are available to meet your unique needs. Take a few moments to review the programs available in your community and online, because selecting the right one will make the difference in your success.