addiction therapy vs twelve steps
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Addiction Therapy vs. the Twelve Steps

Addiction recovery can be a long, intensive process. Until somewhat recently, addicts were often forced into abstinence through punishment, but we’ve come to see overcoming addiction as more of a therapeutic process that requires mental and physical treatments. However, this therapeutic model of addiction recovery isn’t the only model available.

In fact, the twelve-step model of recovery—widely considered to be an almost conflicting approach to the treatment of addiction—is an alternative to more clinically-oriented addiction treatment that emphasizes an individual’s spiritual needs as being central to the recovery process. As such, the following will define these two very different approach, describing what makes them distinct and effective as two very different methods of recovery.

Why Are Addiction Treatment Programs Effective?

After developing an addiction, individuals often spend years or even decades in the throes of active addiction. For such individuals, substance abuse is central to life. Each day, an addict must be always seeking or consuming his or her substance of choice in order to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Substance abuse can be a habit that’s hard to break, which is why supporters of the therapeutic approach  recommend a period of intensive therapy to overcome addiction.

In effect, the therapeutic approach suggests that to overcome a habit that has such a central, all-encompassing influence of one’s life, an individual must complete a program that becomes central to his or her life for a period of time, providing said individual with an intensive curriculum that teaches positive coping skills and habits.

In fact, insufficient length of treatment is one of the most common reasons that addicts relapse. Many addiction treatment programs can last up to several months with several types of programs being inpatient or residential, which means that the addict removes himself or herself from the environment in which the addiction developed and live within the facility for the duration of treatment. While outpatient programs don’t offer overnight accommodations to patients and, instead, allow them to continue living at home, patients still receive a high degree of supervision in the form of treatments most days each week and having to take random drug screens in order to prove that they are abstaining from substance abuse while in the program.

Moreover, aside from the detox treatment that mostly addresses the physical component of addiction and often serves as the precursor to actual addiction therapies, the majority of addiction recovery program offerings are forms of mental and emotional treatment targeting the underlying issues that resulted in the development of addiction in the first place. This can include things like being unable to cope with stress, a history of abuse or trauma, or suffering from a comorbid, or co-occurring, mental or emotional disorder.

The Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Approach to Recovery

The original twelve-step program, Alcoholics Anonymous, was created about 80 years ago by Bill Wilson, himself an alcoholic who had tried most of the programs and groups available at the time to little success. However, Wilson combined bits and pieces from those treatment modalities with his own thoughts on addiction recovery and created his renowned Twelve Steps program. Since then, the program has been implemented in the treatment of various addictions, including narcotics addiction with Narcotics Anonymous, gambling addiction with Gamblers Anonymous, and sex addiction with Sex Addicts Anonymous.

Although faith-based recovery wasn’t a groundbreaking concept during Wilson’s day, Wilson’s Twelve Steps was a spiritual-based method that didn’t cater to or disclude any specific religions; instead, individuals needed only a desire to overcome addiction and forge a stronger relationship with the “higher powers of their understandings” to join Alcoholics Anonymous or one of its numerous derivative groups. Upon joining a twelve-step group, individuals are encouraged to find a sponsor, which is essentially a mentor with personal experience in working the Twelve Steps who can guide a newcomer through the process of twelve-step recovery. Over the course of the Twelve Steps, members will admit powerlessness to the disease of addiction—yes, the twelve-step method recognizes addiction as a disease as well as a spiritual affliction—as well as take inventories of their character defects, appeal to their higher powers to remove those defects, make amends to others who they have wronged in the past, maintain this new lifestyle and perspective moving forward, and then become sponsors themselves.

Addiction Therapy vs. the Twelve Steps

While both therapeutic treatment and the twelve-step method both seek to accomplish the same thing, the approaches of each recovery modality differ in some pretty prominent ways. According to twelve-step literature, individuals who suffer from addiction are in a state of spiritual wanting and the Twelve Steps will allow them to achieve what is essentially a “spiritual awakening,” which amounts to a comprehensive change in their personality. The twelve-step method purports that by becoming more compassionate, empathetic individuals with a more positive outlook and continue attending meetings where they can be involved in others’ recovery processes, individuals can maintain lasting sobriety.

In contrast, the therapeutic approach to recovery lacks the spiritual emphasis of the Twelve Steps. Instead, therapeutic recovery focuses on each addict’s cognitions and how factors relating to prior social experience, biology, and development can be mitigated, allowing an individual to overcome the effects of addiction. In effect, the Twelve Steps focuses on what it considers to be the most important effect of addiction by addressing an addict’s spiritual state while therapeutic treatment of addiction addresses the underlying causes of addiction, attacking the disease at its source.

Struggling with Addiction? Call Us for Help

There’s not a singular, one-size-fits-all method that will allow every single addict to achieve optimal results. However, there are a variety of options available that can account for a wide variety of recovery needs. If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about the available recovery options, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call us today to speak with a recovery specialists who can help you or your addict find the right recovery program. Don’t become another casualty of addiction.