Addiction Recovery Programs

Getting help for substance use disorder can feel overwhelming. There are many different options to choose from, but what treatment approach is best for you or your loved one?

Recovery Program Options

We’ve compiled an overview of everything related to addiction recovery programs, so you can learn about the treatment options available for people who want to get help for drug addiction or alcohol addiction—all in one convenient place.

Do you need immediate assistance?

You can call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Talk Therapy Overview

Therapy is a significant component of substance abuse treatment because addiction is often tied to a person’s emotions and behavioral health.

Talk therapy—also known as psychotherapy—helps individuals address triggers, negative thought patterns, denial, and other psychological aspects that influenced their substance abuse.

Different forms of therapy serve distinct purposes and can provide many benefits throughout the recovery process. Therapy can provide accountability, help individuals reframe negative thoughts and behaviors, learn better coping mechanisms, and develop skills for relapse prevention.

Some types of therapy are available one-on-one with a counselor. In contrast, other therapies take place in a small group setting where individuals in recovery can learn from one another in a supportive environment.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy can be beneficial for individuals who are recovering from substance use disorder. Most addiction treatment facilities, including inpatient and outpatient programs, offer individual therapy.

Spending time with a therapist one-on-one can be incredibly beneficial during recovery. Many individuals continue going to therapy even after completing rehab treatment to continue working on their mental health and overall wellbeing.

The most common styles of individual therapy used for substance abuse treatment include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

Benefits of Individual Therapy

Individual therapy offers many advantages for an addict in recovery, so it’s no wonder that medical professionals widely use individual therapy to treat substance use disorders.

Some of the benefits of individual therapy include:

  • Opportunities to open up. Speaking with a therapist one-on-one provides an excellent opportunity to learn how to talk about your emotions. Therapists offer a neutral, non-judgemental environment where you can work through complicated feelings or past trauma.
  • Trust and confidentiality. Individual therapy is strictly confidential. Unlike group therapy, sessions just involve you and your therapist. The one-on-one model provides privacy, which can be helpful when discussing challenging topics.
  • Receive one-on-one attention. Individual therapy also ensures the therapist’s focus is solely on you and your unique issues. Instead of discussing issues amongst a group, your therapist can give you their full attention during your counseling sessions.
  • Gain self-understanding. Over time, individual therapy can help you discover more about yourself and how your mind works. Your therapist will help you learn to become more self-aware. Ultimately, you’ll be able to identify negative thought patterns and develop ways to handle those feelings in healthier ways.

Drawbacks of Individual Therapy

While individual therapy provides many great benefits for people in addiction treatment, there are some potential drawbacks.

The potential drawbacks of individual therapy include:

  • Higher financial cost. Individual therapy tends to be more expensive than other forms of therapy (such as group therapy). However, many insurance plans offer some form of coverage for mental health counseling, including individual therapy sessions, which can mitigate some costs. Be sure to consider who is “in-network” within your insurance plan, as better coverage might be available to providers who are part of your network.
  • Communication and self-examination challenges. Some individuals find it challenging to focus on themselves and struggle to effectively communicate their emotions, even with help from a therapist. Those who struggle with introspection and talking about emotions and feelings can take more time to learn these skills one-on-one.
  • No real-life examples or models. Individual therapy doesn’t offer an opportunity to see others going through similar problems, which can be particularly helpful when dealing with addiction. Knowing you aren’t alone and seeing others succeed in dealing with similar addiction struggles can be incredibly helpful during recovery.

Group Therapy

Group therapy is another common form of therapy available in most addiction treatment programs. Group therapy usually consists of between 5 to 15 individuals, and sessions are led by a single therapist that will offer discussion questions and provide one-on-one feedback.

Attending therapy in a group format may seem intimidating at first, but through working together with your counselor’s help, you will likely find that being open in a small group of peers can be a liberating experience.

Benefits of Group Therapy

Group therapy can benefit recovering addicts because it offers a supportive environment of like-minded individuals working toward the same goal.

Some of the benefits of group therapy include:

  • Camaraderie. Addiction recovery often feels very isolating. But with group therapy, recovering addicts can experience fellowship and peer encouragement. Everyone in the therapy group has some history of alcohol or drug addiction, and together you can form a small community to encourage and support one another through recovery.
  • Different perspectives. During group therapy, each person will have the opportunity to share their own unique stories of how they struggled with addiction and what led them to get help. These shared testimonies can offer you additional perspectives about your struggles and further your understanding of addiction.
  • Self-discovery. Group therapy is also beneficial to each individual. Sometimes there will be insights shared or questions asked that you might not have considered on your own, and these new perspectives will guide you toward an even deeper understanding of yourself.
  • Positive peer pressure. Since everyone in group therapy is working toward the same goal, you’ll likely find that with that comes a sense of accountability. Meeting regularly as a group can provide a feeling of not wanting to “let others down,” which can give you additional encouragement to avoid returning to alcohol or drug use.

Drawbacks of Group Therapy

While group therapy has many positive aspects that can benefit you, some potential drawbacks exist.

Some group therapy disadvantages might include:

  • Personality conflicts. Overall, the group therapist will maintain an open, positive environment during group therapy, but personalities might sometimes clash. Conflict amongst participants isn’t necessarily common, but it can happen. These conflicts can redirect the group’s focus and take away from everyone’s overall experience.
  • Not everyone is a good candidate. Group therapy might not be the right environment for timid individuals who struggle with social anxiety, and it can be intimidating for anyone to share personal things during group sessions. Still, those who significantly struggle in group environments may be unable to get as much out of group sessions due to their nervousness and stress.
  • Privacy violations. Group therapy sessions are 100% confidential, but there is always a slight risk that other participants might speak about group therapy sessions to outsiders. Such behavior is frowned upon, and for the most part, it doesn’t occur, but there is still a slight risk of violating confidentiality.
  • Potential coasting or laziness. Because group therapy works by having multiple people share, some individuals that might not be as serious about their recovery may be able to “coast” through sessions. These less-involved participants might sit back and let others do most of the talking and sharing, and it’s easier to get away with doing the bare minimum of emotional work in a group of other people.

Family Counseling and Therapy

Family counseling is sometimes recommended for individuals in addiction recovery programs, especially if the recovering addict is an adolescent. Some treatment programs may offer family therapy as one of their in-house treatment options, while others may provide a referral for an outside family therapist.

Family therapy can be valuable in healing past wounds and restoring trust after addiction. Sometimes, family problems may be a source of emotional turmoil that contributes to substance abuse habits. In other cases, the substance abuse might not be caused by past family turmoil, but the addiction created new trauma for the rest of the family.

Benefits of Family Counseling and Therapy

You and your family members can work through feelings about your addiction through family counseling. Together, you can learn better ways to express your thoughts and feelings and begin to heal wounds for everyone involved.

Some of the key benefits of family counseling include:

  • Improve communication. One of the most significant factors in an unhealthy family dynamic is a lack of effective communication. Learning how to communicate appropriately can solve several problems for a family struggling to understand one another. Family therapy can also model effective communication and allow family members to practice positive, helpful communication techniques in a neutral environment.
  • Develop skills for handling conflict. Family therapy also teaches essential conflict resolution skills, and the reality is that no family is without conflict. But through family counseling, your therapist can teach you and your family members better ways to handle conflict when it arises in the future.
  • Gain new insights. Family counseling allows everyone to see each other from a fresh point of view. Through communicating during sessions, you and your family members can get a sense of how other people feel about things that you might not have understood before. This new insight can cultivate empathy, compassion, and healing for you and your loved ones.
  • Identify problems within the family dynamic. Family therapy sessions will also reveal underlying issues—including problems you might not have been aware of before. By identifying these problems, you can work together to improve your overall dynamic for happier, healthier relationships with one another.

Drawbacks of Family Counseling and Therapy

As with any type of therapy, family therapy has some possible drawbacks. Consider these potential challenges before you engage in family counseling.

A few of the potential drawbacks of family therapy might include:

  • Exposure to painful issues. Talking about your problems together as a family can bring up painful emotions for everyone involved. Although additional sessions will bring you healing and understanding, getting through the phase of examining your problems can be challenging.
  • Difficulty shifting perspectives. As family therapy begins to unearth problems in your family dynamic, it can be tough to view your family the same as before (or vice versa). Such a shift in perspective can be challenging and emotional as you see each other in a very new way, and it can take some time to adjust to this new point of view.
  • Family issues can temporarily intensify. Unhealthy patterns and behaviors will become more apparent during family counseling sessions, resulting in hurt feelings and even conflict. However, while this may be a painful shift for you at first, you can successfully work through these feelings and get to a place of healing through additional sessions.

Treatment Centers Overview

There are multiple types of treatment facilities that can help you or your loved one recover from substance abuse. These treatment centers range in intensity, offering a variety of levels of care depending on your needs.

Most addiction treatment programs offer different types of therapy, and some also provide medical detoxification services. You should base the kind of treatment you choose on your individual needs. Factors behind the treatment type you choose may include your level of addiction, co-occurring conditions, time availability, location, and previous history of substance abuse.

You can talk to your doctor or addiction counselor about which option would be best for you and your overall treatment plan.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient programs offer a lower level of care and can be suitable for individuals with a minor to moderate addiction. Outpatient treatment allows recovering addicts to live at home while traveling to a facility to receive treatment a few times each week (or more).

Within the scope of outpatient rehab, there are different levels of treatment. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) provide a more intense treatment program similar to the daily schedule of residential care. Alternatively, Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) offer therapy and classes a few times each week during the day.

Some outpatient programs also provide medical detoxification services to help you get through the early stages of withdrawal and sobriety.

Benefits of Outpatient Rehab Programs

There are many benefits to choosing an outpatient rehab program for your addiction and recovery support. You can discuss these benefits alongside the possible drawbacks of outpatient care with your physician or similar healthcare provider to determine if outpatient rehab is right for you.

Some of the main benefits of an outpatient treatment program include:

  • Ability to maintain current commitments. Outpatient treatment provides a basic structured environment but allows residents to go to work, care for children, or attend school. Not everyone can commit to a 30+ day residential stay at an inpatient facility. Outpatient treatment provides effective treatment without requiring recovering addicts to live at the facility to receive care.
  • More affordable and usually covered by insurance. Outpatient treatment is less expensive than inpatient care, so outpatient rehab may be the more suitable choice if money is a factor. Insurance companies often cover outpatient addiction treatment, which can your overall out-of-pocket cost.
  • Practice techniques in real-world situations. Since patients will return to their regular lives after each day at outpatient rehab, they will have the opportunity to use the tools they learn in real situations. As they learn new coping mechanisms and techniques for relapse prevention, they will be able to practice these techniques and then discuss them at their next outpatient session.
  • Slowly transition back to everyday life. Outpatient programs help recovering addicts adjust to their new lives. Outpatient rehab can also be a transitional step for people that have completed an inpatient program but need a stepping stone before shifting back to normal day-to-day living.

Drawbacks of Outpatient Rehab Programs

Outpatient rehab might not be the right fit for you or your loved one. You should examine the disadvantages alongside the benefits of outpatient therapy to decide whether this type of addiction treatment is appropriate.

A few potential disadvantages of outpatient rehab are:

  • Risk for exposure to bad influences. Individuals in outpatient treatment still have access to the outside world—including old friends and situations that might encourage or trigger a relapse.
  • Possible access to substances. Since patients leave their outpatient facility after treatment for the day is complete, they still have the opportunity to buy drugs or alcohol. Ideally, the tools they are learning during outpatient therapy sessions will help them remain sober, but having the potential for access to these substances might present too much temptation for some individuals.
  • Potential outside distractions. Daily life can distract you from focusing on your recovery. Between work, school, family commitments, and other daily activities, losing focus and not spending enough time on your recovery is a real risk.
  • Lack of 24-hour healthcare. Some individuals may have additional health problems due to past alcohol or drug use. Outpatient facilities do not provide 24-hour care, which may be required during dangerous withdrawal symptoms or when other health problems require close attention.
  • Less control over your living environment. If your home environment isn’t ideal, there is potentially a higher risk for relapse. Outpatient programs do not have a live-in option. However, halfway houses or sober living programs provide a great alternative if your living situation isn’t healthy for your recovery.
  • Detox services may not be available. In most cases, you will have to go through detox after stopping your drug or alcohol use. Medical detox is usually recommended, but outpatient programs do not usually have on-site detoxification services. You would likely need a referral for a separate detox facility or outpatient medical detox support.

Inpatient Treatment Centers

Inpatient treatment usually is what people think of when they hear “rehab.” Inpatient care is especially beneficial for those with a moderate to severe addiction and who need the structure provided by an inpatient facility.

Also known as residential treatment, inpatient care offers the most heightened structure and supervision for addiction recovery. While some may find that inpatient treatment is too restrictive, others may thrive in a highly-structured environment as they actively work on their sobriety.

Benefits of Inpatient Treatment

There are many reasons why inpatient treatment might be the right choice for you or your loved one.

Some of the significant benefits of inpatient rehab include:

  • 24/7 supervision. During inpatient rehab, residents are monitored around the clock, including health monitoring and access to life support for the most severe addictions. In addition, supervision ensures the environment remains drug-free for the safety of all residents.
  • Community setting. Living in an inpatient rehab center comes with the benefit of being part of a sober community. Living with fellow recovering addicts can help you feel less alone in your journey and allows you to develop healthy new friendships with people that share your same goals.
  • Higher level of care. Inpatient rehab offers the highest level of care out of any other treatment option. Because inpatient rehab is a live-in situation, you will have access to counselors and healthcare providers around the clock.
  • The daily schedule is highly structured. Each day of your stay at an inpatient treatment center will be highly structured. There is usually a standard wake-up time, followed by a planned day of therapy, meals, extracurricular activities, and personal time. The structure helps recovering addicts build new, healthy routines outside of their previous substance abuse habits.
  • Freedom from distractions. Inpatient treatment also offers a break from outside distractions—everything from work obligations to potential relapse triggers. Recovering addicts can entirely focus on their recovery work during residential rehab without the worry of external interruptions.
  • Stable sober environment. On top of providing a safe social community, inpatient rehab also offers a stable environment that is entirely drug and alcohol-free. Individuals in inpatient rehab are monitored for substance use to ensure the safety of all residents.

Drawbacks of Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is often very successful in treating substance use disorder. However, there are some potential drawbacks, and inpatient care might not be suitable for everyone.

Some of the possible drawbacks of inpatient treatment include:

  • Freedom is limited. Residents of inpatient rehab are not free to come and go as they please. Sometimes, residents can earn passes for outside trips, but only after the patient has shown improvement and commitment to their recovery. This lack of freedom may not be the right fit for some individuals.
  • Highly structured environment. The day-to-day schedule of inpatient rehab is very structured, from when you wake up to “lights out” at the end of the day. While a high level of structure can be beneficial for many recovering addicts, some may find the regimen stifling.
  • Not covered by insurance. Most insurance companies do not offer coverage for inpatient rehab. In many cases, insurance companies provide coverage for outpatient services first before considering coverage for an inpatient program.
  • Limited access to the outside world. Although having limited access to life outside of rehab can be a plus, as it removes temptations and distractions, it can also be a detractor for some individuals. Recovering addicts may develop a feeling of isolation while in rehab, and the seclusion doesn’t prepare them for real-world scenarios that they will possibly face after their treatment finishes.
  • Increased cost. Inpatient rehab is all-inclusive, so naturally, it will be more expensive than outpatient treatment. Inpatient rehab costs will vary between facilities depending on the additional amenities offered and location.

Self-Guided Recovery

Self-guided recovery is another way to describe handling addiction on your own, without any external treatment or services. It may be possible to achieve sobriety by yourself, but the self-guided recovery method is typically only effective for individuals with minor addiction problems.

Benefits of Self-Guided Recovery

For self-guided recovery to be successful, the individual will need to be devoted to their recovery and have a high level of self-motivation.

There are some additional benefits behind self-guided recovery, such as:

  • Self-directed. Ultimately, you will be the one in control of your recovery no matter what treatment option you select. A self-guided recovery plan is just a more significant step in that direction.
  • Customizable treatment plan. You can fully customize your treatment when you are the only one managing your recovery. It can be convenient to not have to drive anywhere or attend anything outside of your own set schedule.

Drawbacks of Self Guided Recovery

Alternatively, self-guided recovery does come with potential drawbacks. It may not work for individuals with a moderate to severe addiction or those who lack the motivation and drive to stick to their recovery plan.

Other potential drawbacks of self-guided recovery include:

  • Limited perspective. You may lack the perspective to properly understand the nature of your issues, which can increase your potential for relapse down the road. Therapists and other providers familiar with addiction medicine have the training and skills to help you understand your addiction from multiple angles.
  • Insufficient knowledge. You may lack the understanding of how to fix your issues. While addiction itself is a chronic disease, there are often many behavioral factors that tie in with developing substance use disorder in the first place. Not having the resources or guides to assist you with your recovery could prevent you from understanding what went wrong and how to rework your behaviors for a more positive, healthy lifestyle.
  • Highly dependent on willpower. Choosing a self-guided recovery plan will depend on your motivation and willpower. Unless you excel in these areas, a self-guided program may not be appropriate for you.

Support Groups Overview

Support groups are a significant part of addiction treatment and aftercare recovery services. Addiction and recovery can feel incredibly isolating. With the help of support groups, individuals in treatment can find themselves amongst like-minded peers who will encourage and support them in their journey.

There are also many different types of support groups available. You can find a support group specific to recovery for one particular substance, such as opioids or alcohol. You may also search for a support group that intersects with another part of your identity, such as a women-only support group.

Support groups are held locally in community settings but are also now widely available online. From Zoom meetings to online forums, you can potentially find multiple support groups to help you build new bonds and gain a sense of community from others in recovery.

Support groups offer many benefits to recovering addicts, from accountability to community. However, there may be a few possible drawbacks of support groups to consider when coming up with the treatment plan that is best for you or your loved one.

General Benefits of Support Groups

There are many benefits to support groups. As with group therapy, support groups provide a sense of community, accountability, and camaraderie amongst fellow recovering addicts.

Some additional benefits of support groups include:

  • Exposure to diverse experiences. Joining a support group for addiction recovery can help you learn and grow amongst a wide range of individuals. Everyone in your support group will come from a different experience, and learning from one another can help you each grow individually and as a community.
  • Ability to mentor and be mentored. Some support groups can help you locate a mentor (sometimes called a “sponsor” in some programs). These mentors are further along in their addiction recovery process and in a place where they can begin helping those that are in the earlier stages of recovery. Mentors offer wisdom and guidance as well as accountability as an emergency resource if you find yourself struggling with a desire to relapse.
  • Convenient access. Support groups are now widely available in person and online. If you cannot find the ideal support group in your local community, chances are you’ll find at least one support group online to fit your recovery journey.

General Drawbacks of Support Groups

Support groups provide a wide range of benefits, but there are a few potential drawbacks you may want to think about when considering joining a support group.

Some possible support group drawbacks might include:

  • Larger groups. Larger groups of people can mean less individual attention. If you are still struggling with some aspects of your addiction recovery and find that talking about these issues is greatly helpful, you might want to look for smaller, more intimate support group settings. Alternatively, you may want to supplement your support group with group therapy or even individual therapy, so you don’t feel “lost in the shuffle” of a large group.
  • Lack of structure. Support groups tend to be less structured in some ways than group therapy, and also vary in style between groups themselves. You may want to check out a few different support groups to find the one that fits what you are seeking

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a specialized support group that focuses on recovery from alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder. AA is a type of 12-step program which utilizes 12 chronological steps to help recovering alcoholics tackle different aspects of their addiction.

AA can be beneficial for individuals actively in addiction treatment and during their post-treatment aftercare stages. There is no limit to how long you can attend AA, and many individuals find that they enjoy their local AA group so much that they continue attending meetings for years.

However, there are some criticisms of AA that could be possible disadvantages for some people. AA is a free program, so you could undoubtedly attend some meetings to see if AA is the right fit for you and your needs.

Benefits of Alcohol Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free international program for individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder. There are a variety of meetings available in every city at different times, making AA easily accessible for many.

AA has several benefits for recovering alcoholics, including:

  • Highly structured. AA meetings are highly structured and follow a 12-step plan to support your recovery from alcohol abuse. This high level of structure can provide you with a sense of routine and allow you to get into positive habits to support your recovery. AA’s 12-step program is clear and easy to follow, making it ideal for someone who works well with structure and progressive steps.
  • Gain from listening to others’ experiences. People from all walks of life attend AA meetings, and you’ll have the opportunity to learn from them and their experiences in recovery. In addition, you’ll contribute to the group, forming a sense of community to help one another continue on your recovery journeys.
  • Available during and after treatment. AA meetings are often incorporated with different types of treatment programs. Many times, people will begin attending AA meetings through their rehab program. They can continue attending after their rehab has officially completed, providing you with ongoing support even when you’ve finished your official treatment.
  • AA prevents relapse. Having a support group like AA provides you with a sense of community and accountability. It is common to work with a fellow member that is further along in their recovery (known as a mentor or sponsor) who can help guide you through the steps. Sponsors and other members offer accountability and resources during difficult times in life when you might otherwise feel triggered; you can turn to your AA community rather than returning to alcohol use.
  • Free. AA doesn’t cost anything, making it accessible to anyone regardless of their income situation.
  • International. AA is an international program, which means that you can find meetings anywhere globally. Whether traveling for work or pleasure, you never have to worry about missing an AA meeting. AA is available anywhere and welcomes new members or those visiting from out of town.

Drawbacks of Alcoholics Anonymous

While AA is a great program and has helped many people achieve long-term sobriety, it might not be the right group for everyone.

There are some potential drawbacks to Alcoholics Anonymous, including:

  • Anonymity can lead to abuse. AA is founded on anonymity, which may also mean a lack of accountability for some. Some people might find it easier to return to former drinking habits by remaining anonymous.
  • Members may attend under court order. Individuals required to attend AA meetings as part of a court order may not be as serious about their recovery. These individuals have the potential to derail meetings or bring a negative attitude to the group, which can put some individuals at risk for relapse.
  • Young addicts may mix with the wrong crowd. AA is open to anyone, including younger, more naive individuals. There is a possibility that AA can expose them to people with more severe addictions that may not fully commit to their recovery, and negative influences can encourage relapse in less experienced members.
  • Not to be confused with medical treatment. AA is a support group but is not a replacement for detox or addiction treatment. Detoxification services are not provided through AA, nor are medical services such as Medication-Assisted Treatment or therapy.
  • Religious overtones. There are religious overtones in AA, and for the non-practicing or non-religious individual, these elements might feel exclusionary. AA meetings close with a prayer with Christian origins (the Serenity Prayer) and often refer to a “higher power.”

Other 12-Step Programs

There are many other 12-step programs available to help individuals overcome issues with drug abuse. While Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a well-known 12-step program, other programs are available that cover different types of addiction.

Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is one type of drug-related 12-step program, but there are also other similar groups that deal with specific drug types (such as Cocaine Anonymous).

Benefits of 12-Step Programs

Joining a 12-step program can provide you with much-needed structure and a positive community focused on the same sobriety goals as you are.

Other benefits of 12-step groups include:

  • Total involvement in a community. Twelve-step groups provide an essential sober community for individuals in recovery. While 12-step programs also offer critical tools for overcoming addiction, they also give you a sense of belonging. You and your groupmates all share a common goal and can rely on one another for support, encouragement, and accountability.
  • Destigmatizes drug addiction. Speaking about past drug abuse and the negative way it impacted your life is a momentous step in processing your past addiction—but talking about it isn’t always easy. Twelve-step programs help by providing a non-judgemental space for you to work through your feelings and be honest with yourself about what you’ve experienced.
  • Dependable support system. As mentioned, 12-step groups also provide an invaluable support system. Nobody will fully understand your struggles and triumphs quite the same way as fellow addicts in recovery, and they will always be there for you.
  • Free. Twelve-step programs are also free, making them accessible to anyone.

Drawbacks of 12-Step Programs

Twelve-step programs offer many benefits to individuals recovering from addiction but may have some potential drawbacks for certain people.

Some of these drawbacks might include:

  • No medical advice or info on treatment. A 12-step program provides support and emotional guidance, but do not offer the same quality of care as a treatment program. Twelve-step programs do not take the place of therapy and do not offer any medical services or healthcare support.
  • Requires social involvement. Twelve-step programs might not be the right fit for someone with social anxiety or extreme shyness. Meetings in 12-step groups are centered on sharing and talking through issues, concerns, successes, and failures. It can be difficult for someone who struggles with speaking in front of a group to open up, even in such a casual environment.
  • Religious undertones. Generally speaking, 12-step programs also have religious undertones, which might be offputting for someone that is not religious. Usually, meetings end with a prayer, and there is typically a focus on a “higher power,” which can make some people uncomfortable.
  • Significant time investment. Twelve-step meetings do require a time commitment. While the amount of time you set aside for 12-step meetings is strictly personal, many people recommend weekly or even daily meetings, which might not be feasible for some individuals.

Alternate Forms of Addiction Therapy

In addition to the types of addiction recovery listed, there are also alternative therapies available. This list is not exhaustive but provides insight into some of the more common alternative therapies available.

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery)

Self-Management and Recovery Training, also known as SMART Recovery, is a self-guided treatment style. SMART Recovery treats all forms of addiction, including alcohol and substance use disorders.

SMART Recovery is not a 12-step program. Instead, SMART Recovery programs focus on four key points and tools for each concept. It focuses on self-reliance instead of the concept of helplessness in the face of addiction.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is an all-women group tailored specifically for fellow women recovering from addiction. Women for Sobriety recognizes that recovery presents unique challenges specific to women and offers a unique support system for women of all races, backgrounds, and belief systems.

Like many programs, Women for Sobriety offers in-person and online meetings.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.)

Founded in 1985 by a sober alcoholic, Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.) provides recovering alcoholics with a community of fellow adults in recovery for various types of addiction.

SOS is a nonprofit organization that provides long-term recovery support for people who dealt with addiction to drugs, alcohol, eating, gambling, and more. They have free meetings available for attendees and offer supplementary literature, written by the founder—some of which are free to download.

Moderation Management™

Moderation Management is a recovery program designed to help people enjoy a healthier relationship with alcohol. Unlike other recovery groups, Moderation Management is not focused on total sobriety. Instead, their goal is to help members achieve success by learning to enjoy alcohol in moderation.

The Moderation Management community offers in-person meetings and chat groups, support forums, and even groups on social media platforms like Facebook.

Evidence-Based Treatments

Evidence-based treatment describes addiction treatments that have a positive outcome for individuals in recovery. Many treatment centers will employ some form of one or both of these evidence-based treatments as part of their overall treatment plan.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) breaks evidence-based treatment into two categories:

  • Pharmacotherapies: Medication used to treat specific disorders, such as Alcohol Use Disorder, Opioid Use Disorder, and nicotine addiction. These medications help by reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms, thereby preventing relapse.
  • Behavioral Therapies: Approaches to behavioral health provide recovering addicts with tools and resources to best understand their addiction and their potential triggers. These behavioral therapies can help you manage stress, avoid relapse, and improve life skills for overall recovery success.

Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapy is a specific approach to addiction that includes mental and spiritual wellness alongside physical recovery. The effectiveness of holistic therapy is often debated and disputed due to the lack of evidence of success. The general recommendation is for holistic therapies to work alongside evidence-based treatments rather than act as a replacement for proven techniques.

Some examples of holistic therapies that may complement additional treatment include:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga and mindfulness
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Reiki and similar energy work
  • Herbal remedies

Experimental Therapies

Experimental therapies describe different types of addiction treatment that are still in their early phases and may not yet have substantial evidence of success in addiction treatment.

Experimental therapy is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, while methadone is currently a known treatment for opioid use disorder, buprenorphine and naloxone in an office-based setting is the newer standardized treatment method.

Get the Help You Need

No matter what type of treatment program you choose, the key is reaching out for help with substance abuse.

If you’re not ready to speak with a doctor about your substance use concerns, you can take a look at the SAMHSA program locator to find out what resources are available near you. You can also call their national helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Suppose you’re thinking about joining a support group. In that case, you can visit the websites of some of the non-profit organizations mentioned here to discover what support groups are available in your area.

Reviewed by:Chris Carberg

Addiction Guide Founder & Mental Health Advocate

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Chris Carberg is a visionary digital entrepreneur, the Founder of Addiction Guide, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones, while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

11 references
  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4126. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2004. 

  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006.

  3. Groups and Substance Abuse Treatment – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64223

  4. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Psychotherapy: Understanding group therapy. American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/group-therapy

  5. Substance use disorder treatment—complementary approaches … (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/295912408_Substance_use_disorder_treatment-complementary_approaches_clinical_tool

  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, June 3). Evidence-based approaches to drug addiction treatment. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment

  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, June 3). Types of treatment programs. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs

  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, March 22). Treatment and recovery. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Statistics on complementary and integrative health approaches. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics-on-complementary-and-integrative-health-approaches#hed1

  10. What researchers and practitioners can learn from self-guided change (aka natural recovery). What Researchers and Practitioners Can Learn from Self-guided Change (aka Natural Recovery) | Society of Addiction Psychology. (2020, November 13). Retrieved April 18, 2022, from https://www.addictionpsychology.org/conference-calls/what-researchers-and-practitioners-can-learn-self-guided-change-aka-natural

  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, January). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved on April 18, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/675-principles-of-drug-addiction-treatment-a-research-based-guide-third-edition.pdf

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