Non-12 Step Programs for Drug and Alcohol Recovery—a Holistic Approach

Holistic Rehab CenterNon-12 Step programs for drug and alcohol recovery are a relatively recent treatment option for people with problematic substance use. They are called non-12 Step programs because they depart from more traditional treatment programs. Historically, the majority of rehab programs were founded on the principles of 12 Step groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous).

There is always a range of philosophies, methods and other factors that make each rehab known as a non-12 Step program unique. Falling into the category of a non-12 Step program does not, however, make all such rehabs the same. One must inquire of each particular program about the specifics of their approach, services, personnel, costs, and accommodations, for example.

Holistic Methods and a Non-12 Step Program

Holistic programs very frequently identify themselves as non-12 Step rehabs. This does not necessarily mean they are dismissive of the 12 Steps, but rather that time spent in their program will focus on other things. Many people use holistic recovery methods and the 12 Steps together to great benefit after a rehab stay, for example.

As the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states: holistic principles are relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts. A holistic philosophy of health also views people and their environments as a single system and believes that what happens to our health can be related to many various factors in the body, mind, emotions, spirit, and environment.

Non-12 Step programs with a holistic focus treat the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously. Holistic philosophy endeavors to comprehensively address health effects that would result from an addiction. For example, the toxic effects of substances not only cause physical illness but cause mental, emotional and spiritual suffering as well. Many holistic practitioners believe that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual maladies are the underlying causes of addiction.

Such programs typically use an array of services and methods commonly known as alternative healthcare modalities such as nutrition, herbalism, chiropractic, yoga, acupuncture, meditation and so on. However, it is a myth that holistic treatment does not use elements of mainstream medicine. An effective holistic approach incorporates a wide range of methods and techniques into a comprehensive plan, including types of mainstream medical and psychiatric care found in other types of rehabs. The overall goal is to restore and regulate a holistic balance that leads to improved daily functioning and wellness.

The Whole Person in a Non-12 Step Treatment Program

A holistic view maintains that all parts of us are related and that our environments directly impact our well-being. Also, if one aspect of self or life is out of balance, the effects can be felt throughout the entire system. Symptoms and illnesses can develop, for instance, that are not truly the essential underlying disturbance that needs to be resolved. However, but those disturbances can lead toward resolving the root causes of distress. For instance, unresolved trauma can cause a lowered immunity, causing chronic respiratory infections. Treating the effects of a lowered immunity is important, but underlying trauma would be the root cause of those other issues. Holistically, the same principles apply in an addictive process.

It is common for non-12 Step programs to seek out what are believed to be the root causes of addiction and to treat those. These underlying causes may include a diversity of issues such as unresolved trauma reactions, depression, anxiety, or other psychological disturbances; self-sabotaging beliefs about self, others, and the world; poor nutrition, and so on. The holistic philosophy is that addictions are symptoms of an underlying problem, or set of problems, that cause us to use substances for self-medication.

Non-12 Step Programs and Physical Health

As in all addiction treatment, one must withdraw and detox before moving on to other aspects of treatment and recovery. This process is very often an intensive medical process for best safe practices. You can expect medical supervision for withdrawal and detox in a holistic program, but may also be given support services such as the use of alternative health care practices to aid in detox. You should inquire about each program you consider what their withdrawal and detox protocol involve for the specific substance(s) to which you are addicted.

Physical health concerns continue after the detox practice. In a holistic program, nutrition, exercise, massage, and yoga, for example, are often used to continue building physical health as the treatment process continues. Holistic practitioners typically encourage the development of a lifestyle routine that will continue a higher level of physical health into the post-rehab recovery process.

Non-12 Step Programs and the Mind

We have long known that addiction is far more than ingesting substances or engaging in compulsive behaviors. Our minds are deeply involved in the dynamics of an addictive process. Consequently, effective addiction treatment must address our thoughts, beliefs, and mental processes such as decision-making and problem-solving. These mental aspects are significant underlying drivers in any addiction. A holistic approach views abstinence as not enough. In order to get well and stay well, dysfunctional mental processes have to be replaced with healthier ones.

The mental obsession of addiction is well-known in treatment and recovery circles. It is a powerful example of disordered thinking that fuels addictive use. People with Substance Use Disorders become fixated upon using and can feel overpowered by such thoughts, unable to override them even when despairing, not wanting to continue use.

Other examples of mental processes involved in addiction are what we commonly call ‘thinking errors’ such as denying problems, justifying use, blaming others for your own actions and minimizing the negative effects of one’s addiction. Such thinking sets up self-sabotaging emotions and behavior that perpetuate addiction.

Non-12 Step Programs and the Emotions

An addictive process always involves emotional distress. Substance use dysregulates emotions, making it difficult to manage stress and strong emotion well. Emotional issues are also considered underlying issues that need to be resolved in order to sustain sobriety. For many people with addictions, unresolved trauma is a driving force in substance use and addiction, for example.

Anxiety and depression are also strongly correlated to substance abuse. Many people with addictions have such co-occurring or simultaneous emotional problems that trigger substance use. Anxiety related to intimacy, for instance, is often self-medicated with substance use to facilitate closeness in a relationship. Similarly, people with social anxiety in any social setting, or performance anxiety related to school or work, often self-medicate such symptoms with substances. Another common and emotionally distressful time in which substance use can be used to quell painful feelings is during loss and grief.

Non-12 Step Programs and Spirituality

Spirituality is often confused with the religious. However, spirituality is typically more broadly defined, referring to a sense of meaning and purpose in life, meaningful connections to others, and meaningful participation in the world. Spiritual practices tend to involve activities of introspection and mindfulness, resulting in feelings of serenity, gratitude, well-being, and balance. These activities and feelings can certainly be part of a religious practice; however religious practices occur within the context of a particular doctrine and community of practitioners of that doctrine.

A Difference Perspective on Recovery

Non-12 Step programs often have a different perspective not only on the causes of addiction but also the notion of recovery. For example, some holistic treatment practitioners do not accept the ‘disease concept’ of addiction that is more traditional and widespread. The traditional disease concept of substance abuse treatment and recovery has been that one does not completely recover from addiction, but can go into remission, always vigil to manage it even during sobriety. In a holistic view, many believe instead that addiction can be overcome and is curable if the underlying causes of addiction are resolved.

To illustrate the differences, some who have successfully remained sober after holistic treatment refer to themselves as a ‘recovered’, having previously had an addictive illness. In the more traditional disease concept of addiction (such as in Alcoholics Anonymous), people refer to sobriety as being ‘in recovery’, and themselves as a ‘recovering’ alcoholic or addict instead of a ‘recovered’ one. This terminology indicates that the illness is not ever fully overcome even in sobriety and that they still have the illness.

Choosing a Non-12 Step Holistic Program

If you or a loved one is interested in holistic treatment for an addiction, there are many options available. However, like other types of treatment programs, all non-12 Step holistic treatment centers are not alike. It is important to explore each program you consider in some detail, and any reputable program will gladly answer your questions about their services and daily schedule, alternative treatments and activities, and the training and experience of their staff members.

Keep in mind, too, that not every treatment program will have the same amenities, accommodations or costs. Also, not all will take your insurance policy, or will make the same financial arrangements for payment. You will have to inquire about these things each time you consider a program.

If you are like most of us, the decision to get addiction treatment comes at a particularly difficult time in your life that is fraught with emotion, exhaustion, and confusion. Finding good treatment options can seem an overwhelming task. If you find that you need support and guidance in your search, you can contact us for a free consultation. We have information about programs in many locations and can assist you or your loved one as you search for viable options.

Recovery from addiction is possible. Countless people have overcome substance use and live happier and more successful lives in sobriety. Reach out today if you are ready to dramatically change your life, too.