Differences and Similarities of a 12 Step Program and Addiction Treatment

Did you know that every year over five million people start attending a 12 Step program or addiction treatment? Seeking help through addiction treatment or 12 Step recovery programs is very common, and both have helped addicts experience life free from drugs and alcohol. 

However, many people don’t know that addiction treatment is very different than 12 Step programs. While they sound similar, and both have similar goals, they are not the same thing.

Addiction treatment is a professional treatment taking place at a treatment facility. This can be inpatient or outpatient treatment.

12 Step programs are support groups for people with a common problem. They’re unofficial programs for maintaining sobriety and can supplement addiction treatment but can’t replace it. 

If you’re wondering about the differences and similarities of a 12 Step program and addiction treatment, read on. This article will go over both, so you can find the help that’s right for you. 

What is a 12 Step Program?

12 Step recovery programs are not considered treatment programs at all, because while they have a guided system, there are no clinicians or therapists. The addicts simply assist one another by finding common ground.

Many 12 Step programs focus on a higher power or God, but faith is not required. The format of each group varies. Some feature prayers and sharing personal stories, others feature bible readings.

However, all of them feature the same 12 Steps. The 12 Steps are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless—that our lives had become
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we
    understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature
    of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make
    amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do
    so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly
    admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with
    God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and
    the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to
    carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our

Each step is different, but common themes are apparent. Many of the steps involve accepting the problem and one’s lack of control over it. Through honesty and integrity, as well as a bit of soul searching, the addict or alcoholic can find the actions they need to take to make things right.

Other steps involve making amends and asking for forgiveness from those affected by the addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are the most common 12 Step programs in the United States, but others have emerged for other addictions, such as overeating. 

Limitations and Benefits of 12 Step Programs

The benefits of 12 step program membership are many. It’s a great place to meet others struggling with the same issues, and find support for cravings and the search for forgiveness and self-fulfillment. Many people who join a 12 Step program say that the program literally saved their lives. 

Essentially, these programs are a buffer for stress and can give participants hope and emotional support, as well as a sense of control. All of these are proven to increase life satisfaction

Most 12 Step programs are free, although some collect donations. 

However, these programs are not substitutes for mental health treatment, and they are not a medical treatment for addiction. As such, when used alone, 12 Step programs are not effective for overcoming addiction. 

It is only when used in conjunction with addiction treatment that 12 Step programs increase the likelihood of recovery. 

What Is Addiction Treatment?

Addiction treatment is professional drug or alcohol treatment. This can involve inpatient or outpatient therapy, or both. 

One of the biggest benefits of addiction treatment is that it is performed by therapists and clinicians. While the 12 Steps are sometimes used to aid addiction treatment, they are not the focus. The focus is evidence-based treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other medical and psychological treatments.

Medical Detox 

The first step in addiction treatment is often withdrawal or detox. This process can be incredibly uncomfortable and even fatal. When the body is dependent on drugs or alcohol, supervised medical detox is suggested to both ease the discomfort and prevent death.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient treatment is the highest level of care for those suffering from addiction. Programs are offered at professional facilities with supervision from medical professionals as well as experienced mental health workers. 

Inpatient rehabilitation might last from one month to three months, depending on the person. After the initial stage of detox, rehab includes mental care, group and individual therapy, wellness activities, and training on proper health. 

Addictions are often formed as coping mechanisms when mental health issues and stressors are overwhelming. Getting rid of the addiction without providing a new coping mechanism leaves the former addict susceptible to relapse.

For this reason, inpatient therapy seeks to teach the former addict new ways to cope with stress and mental health disorders. 

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Following inpatient therapy, outpatient therapy, or aftercare, is often recommended. This is a way to ease the individual back into their daily life. The individual can live at home and keep a normal work or school routine.

However, they will also have individual and family counseling, behavioral therapy, and other support groups. 

12 Step Programs vs Addiction Treatment

When you compare a 12 Step program and addiction treatment, although both seek to help addicts regain control over their life, many differences are evident.

For one thing, while 12 Step programs are free, addiction treatment is not. Although insurance often covers this treatment, it does require payment.

Furthermore, 12 Step programs are akin to self-help groups. While they can offer support, they don’t offer the same in-depth, professional care as addiction treatment. This might be sufficient for some people, but for addicts with severe histories of addiction, professional support is necessary.

Addiction treatment exclusively uses evidence-based treatments, which means that every treatment has been proven to help overcome addiction. In contrast, evidence has shown that 12 step programs can assist addicts in treatment, but can’t replace proper treatment.  

Take Control of Your Addiction Today

If you’re looking for help controlling your addiction, and have been attending 12 Step programs without success, consider supplementing them with addiction treatment. Addiction treatment with Sober Partners can help you finally kick your addiction, and experience life without drugs or alcohol. 

If you’re ready to get help now, feel free to reach out to us. We can address any questions or concerns that you might have!

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