Published On: Fri, Apr 19th, 2019

Are Non-12-Step Recovery Approaches Effective?

Although the 12 step approach to addiction recovery is possibly the best known, it is by no means the only source of support for people overcoming substance abuse. Non 12 step drug rehab encompasses different methodologies to achieve sobriety that are not faith-based, appealing to people who are not necessarily religious.

Research shows that individuals are more likely to achieve and maintain sobriety when they are supported by the people around them. This includes the kind of support groups they belong to which should resonate with their personal beliefs in order to be most effective. In this article, we take a closer look at one of the best non 12 step recovery programs offering an alternative to traditional support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA): SMART Recovery.

photo/ Pete Linforth

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART non 12 step recovery programs are abstinence-based and known for offering a practical self-help approach to people struggling with drugs or alcohol. Whereas the traditional approach to recovery support believes that it is only with the help of a Higher Power that individuals can find their way to sobriety, SMART non 12 step rehab is very different.

SMART Recovery does not label people as being “alcoholics” or “drug addicts” which are terms that have extremely negative connotations for people working hard to stay sober. This type of non 12 step drug rehab is also based on the belief that a person is not defined by substance abuse that that with the right treatment and support, they can learn to achieve their potential in recovery.

SMART non 12 step drug rehab also differs from the traditional approach in that it does not believe that people are “powerless” in their struggle to overcome addiction. SMART Recovery promotes self-help that empowers people to draw on their own strengths and weaknesses to find their way to a happy substance-free lifestyle.

SMART Recovery is based on Sensible Theory

When people are faced with life’s problems and the emotional upset surrounding them; alcohol and drugs can serve a useful purpose. However, although it is easy to feel temporarily relieved from the stresses of daily life, continuing substance abuse rarely does anything apart from exacerbate an individual’s problems even more.

SMART Recovery is offered at the best holistic recovery centers and is designed to help people identify the reasons they abuse substances. The program then seeks to help them find healthier responses to difficulties they face in their daily lives that would usually trigger substance abuse. Addiction is marked by self-destructive behaviors as a person’s preoccupation with using becomes increasingly overwhelming as the illness develops. SMART non 12 step recovery programs have a strong focus on the present rather than dwelling on the past, working to address the causes of negative behavior by promoting positive lifestyle changes.

Key Areas of Awareness and Change in SMART Non 12 Step Rehab

The four key areas of focus of SMART Recovery are as follows:

  • Boosting motivation through group engagement and participation
  • Recovery maintenance and relapse prevention
  • Stress management to cope with triggers for substance abuse in recovery
  • Creating a balanced, positive and healthy lifestyle

Motives and Goals

Motivation is an intrinsic part of an individual’s success in achieving sobriety. SMART Recovery believes in there being two principle goals in life: basic survival and attaining happiness. By increasing a person’s awareness of why they abuse substances, they can better understand their reasons for quitting. This allows them to set sensible goals that are based on their personality, which encourages and motivates to make significant behavioral changes in recovery.


What a person believes about addiction is important which is why non 12 step drug rehab centers are rising in popularity. Not everyone believes that addiction is a moral weakness, with more people understanding that it is an illness that can be treated. SMART Recovery is important in empowering people to help themselves, rather than believing they are powerless in their struggle in the way 12 step does.


Many people turn to substances in response to difficult emotional situations or difficulties. Feelings such as guilt, anger, pain, anxiety and low self-esteem are all powerful influences behind substance abuse. SMART Recovery teaches individuals how to lessen emotional disturbances by increasing self-acceptance. Individuals with substance abuse problems need to be less judgmental of themselves in order to find a route to recovery.


It is not sufficient just to change the way a person thinks and feels in order for them to recover from substance abuse. Continued commitment and follow-through are crucial. SMART Recovery encourages individuals to work to solve their problems by making positive lifestyle changes. People very often  fall into highly negative behavioral patterns when abusing substances and their environments play an important part.

SMART Recovery encourages people to rethink their lifestyles from an abstinent perspective that allows them to imagine a life without substances. It is important for individuals in recovery to have clear cut goals and objectives to reach for as they continue their journey in sobriety. This practical approach to addiction support is one of the main reasons SMART is one of the most popular non-12 step recovery programs offered in holistic recovery centers.

Author: Isabella David

Isabella is a freelance content writer and blogger. She has a keen interest in writing about health-related news. In her free time, she loves to play with her cute dog.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.


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