Alternatives to AA and the 12-Step Program

Alcoholics Anonymous was established in 1935, and, for decades, it has been the traditional go-to for those suffering from alcohol abuse. Due to how ubiquitous the organization’s chapters have become, an all-too common misconception was born. Many erroneously believe that AA is always the best or, worse, the only option available to those seeking alcohol addiction treatment. In fact, there are alternatives to AA out there for individuals wanting to recover from their substance abuse problems by their own will.

Dodging the 12-Step Program

The well-known 12-step program pushed by AA has come under fire to an ever increasing degree in recent years. While it is recognized that such initiatives, bolstered by support groups, have helped untold numbers of people recover from alcohol abuse, many are now choosing to speak in favor of finding alternative approaches to AA’s very well-marketed program. Some of the major components cited as causes of controversy or discomfort are the 12-step focus on God, prayer, a lack of meaningful adaptation of language and techniques and the surrender of one’s own agency to the will of the group and organization.

An Emphasis on Secularity

There are groups and organizations out there who will not impose overtly spiritual language and practices upon members. Where AA frequently references “a power greater than ourselves” and places the lion’s share of emphasis on the need to entrust oneself to God (specifically the Christian God), other programs now recognize the importance of presenting an open environment in which Buddhism, Islam, atheism, agnosticism and any other religion, philosophy or earnestly held belief is thoroughly respected. If you happen to be religious, you can find a safe, comfortable place to share, just as could someone who is less religiously inclined. Fostering an atmosphere of secular communion is key development in the treatment of alcohol abuse that AA has yet to acknowledge.

New Methodologies

Another area in which AA can fall short of the mark is in its methods. The 12-step program was created about eight decades ago. In pursuing its brand of alcohol addiction treatment, AA has shown remarkably little inclination to adapt its techniques to the developing understanding of human psychology, environmental factors that can influence an individual and other pertinent issues. There are other organizations that have sprung up more recently that demonstrate a much stronger propensity to change with the times, as needed.


On a related note to the typically religious bent of AA, the organization also encourages its members to rely almost exclusively on the power of God to grant them the strength to overcome their alcohol abuse. While this may work for some, there are many people out there who prefer an approach that is more focused on internally generated drive. Self-empowerment is something that some other groups will advocate, but AA prefers to stick to its doctrine.

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol abuse, you should know that help is available to you. There is no need to attend a meeting held by an organization that makes you uncomfortable in any way. Seeking out alternatives the giant AA is perfectly acceptable. At South Coast Counseling, our inpatient alcohol treatment rehab center is ideally suited to helping our patients achieve a lasting recovery. Let us help you through this trying time by administering care and nurturing your growth in a way that is most helpful to you.