What is the Difference Between 12-Step and Non 12-Step Recovery Groups?

JourneyPure Staff

August 9, 2019

Addiction is not a disease that can be cured. Through the appropriate treatment, however, people struggling with active addiction can stop abusing the substances of their choosing and begin living a life rooted in recovery. For many of these people, the real work begins after getting sober, which is why recovery groups are so important.

Recovery groups of all kinds, including both 12-Step and non-12-Step groups, play a significant role in the lives of those looking to maintain their recovery. Through such groups, individuals can become part of a community of others who have shared similar experiences, thoughts, and emotions, all while opening up to new ideas and lifestyle changes that support long-term sobriety.

Finding a recovery group that is right for you can change your life for the better, which is why it is important to know what types of programming options are available.

12-Step and Non 12-Step Recovery Groups

The most popular and widely-known 12-Step recovery groups are Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). AA has been around for nearly 100 years, while NA has been in action for more than 60 years. Approximately 2 million people worldwide are part of the AA community, while Narcotics Anonymous remains the second most popular 12-Step program in the world. These recovery groups are available all around the world, allowing members to drop into meetings no matter where they are. 12-Step recovery groups have proven to be highly effective in relapse prevention and long-term sobriety.

SMART Recovery and Refuge Recovery are two of the standout non-12-Step recovery groups. Based mostly in the U.S., both groups have developed a large following, though not nearly as large as what can be seen in AA and NA meetings. Still, hundreds of meetings occur on a weekly basis throughout the country. In these meetings, people can continue to build their recovery on a foundation focused on principles outside of the traditional 12 Steps.

Both types of recovery programs offer countless benefits to those looking to maintain their recovery. However, there are several differences between these two programming options, which is why learning as much about them as possible can help you make an informed decision about what may work best for you.

12-Step and Non-12-Step

Differences Between The Groups

Both types of recovery groups can help people out of the darkness of addiction and keep them continually succeeding in sobriety. However, 12-Step groups and non-12-Step groups are different from one another in a number of ways. These differences are welcomed, considering that not every person struggling with addiction responds to the same treatment or approach.

 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous are defined by the following:

  • A strict set of 12 individual steps that focus on making amends, conducting personal inventory, admitting powerlessness over addiction, and achieving a spiritual awakening
  • Developing a higher power of your choosing to help guide you through the steps and your life in general. This higher power can be anything or anyone you want, ranging from God to the general sense of there being something bigger than you.
  • Obtaining a sponsor, which is a person who has achieved success in recovery and who is able to help guide you through the steps in an effort to aid in your recovery progress
  • Accepting addiction as a disease
  • Spending time in meetings sharing and listening to experiences in an effort to learn and grow in recovery

Non-12-Step programs, like SMART Recovery, are defined by the following:

  • Guidelines that are based in science, such as the implementation of motivational therapy and developing skills proven to help manage inaccurate thought patterns
  • Participating in exercises that focus on altering behaviors
  • Understanding addiction as a behavioral issue
  • Spending time in meetings working on building strong skills sets and utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy to end the compulsive desire to continually abuse drugs and/or alcohol

While they have a strong outlined structure, 12-Step recovery groups tend to be more laid back in terms of programming than non-12-Step recovery groups are. This is because 12-Step groups are founded on the exchanges between participants, while non-12-Step meetings are rooted in evidence-based practices and scientific results.

Despite these differences, however, both types of recovery groups offer individuals the skills to keep them from turning back to the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol.

The Importance of Recovery Groups

Many people join recovery groups after they have been to some form of professional addiction treatment, while others get 100 percent of their treatment through these groups. Regardless of where a person is at in his or her recovery, getting involved with a recovery group can be lifesaving.

Recovery groups offer the following to participants:

  • A sense of accountability to the group and oneself
  • A community of others who can provide support and insight
  • A place to share personal challenges and issues free of judgment
  • An environment where anything can be shared without fear of that information being shared with people outside of that group
  • One or more sets of skills that participants can utilize on a 24/7 basis

Both 12-Step and non-12-Step recovery groups are excellent resources for those who are looking to get sober or stay sober. To help you decide which program is best for you, consider your own personal preferences and compare them with your current recovery needs.

Get Help Right Now at JourneyPure Lexington

You do not need to struggle with a substance use disorder, as there are plenty of treatment options available to you. If you are ready to stop using for good, reach out to JourneyPure Lexington. We can help you start your transformation into a life of recovery.