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5 Alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous

Upon therapy for the alcoholic himself, we surely have no monopoly. Yet it is our great hope that all those who have as yet found no answer may begin to find one in the pages of this book and will presently join us on the high road to a new freedom.

-Alcoholics Anonymous, Foreword to the Second Edition


Professional counseling can serve a significant role in recovery. Counseling, both one-on-one with a therapist and in groups, has decades of research that shows good outcomes, even for recovering alcoholics. As we know, however, it works best when we have stopped drinking.

Individual Counseling

One-on-one therapy and family therapy shows are beneficial for resolving life-long problems in cognition and emotional processing. As AA attendees know, Bill W., one of the founders, spent countless hours with Dr. Silkworth to understand his thoughts and the progression of alcoholism.

Dr. Silkworth provided Bill the foundational idea that alcoholism was nearly hopeless and fatal due to how it destroyed sufferers’ willpower. Although the news was devasting for Bill to hear, it became essential in understanding alcoholism as an illness, in both the bodily and mental sense.

Group Therapies

Several kinds of group therapies show results in helping addicts manage their lives better in terms of interpersonal relationships, self-care, and assertiveness.

These include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

A style of therapy that tries to challenge thinking and behavior that cause trouble. It has a ton of studies that back up that it works well for various phycological issues.

Dialectical behavior therapy

Usually performed in a group, DBT teaches living skills around interpersonal relationships, emotional and impulse management, and wellness. The group will discuss new skills and share how you’ve used them in your life, for any tips from the therapist and other participants.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy

Motivational Enhancement Therapy tries to bring you the willingness and perseverance to tackle a life problem, such as addiction.

Marital and Family Therapy

As the name suggests, MFT brings in your spouse and family members to bear on how addiction impacts them and how to work with you to overcome it.

All of the above therapies usually involve a licensed professional who has experience applying them. As paid professionals, therapists’ costs can sometimes run high.

Religious Organizations

Even before AA was formally created, the church produced many miraculous recoveries. These religious experiences were so fascinating that even Bill W. studied them as part of writing the Big Book.

Today organized religion continues to help many addicts recover. It is by no means an old-fashioned way of getting sober.

Other Addiction Peer Support Groups

Celebrate Recovery

Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-based recovery problem. It focuses on getting individuals with the same issues to help each other in a Christ-centered action method.

SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training. It is a non-religious program for substance addictions and non-substance (behavioral) addictions. The program uses cognitive and phycological approaches.

Self Help

The many self-help books and guides out there are plentiful. Many are a mix of religious and philosophical maxims (for example, The Four Agreements) or offer practical steps for sobering up based on scientific research.

Many alcoholics buy these resources, only to find that the needed willpower wasn’t there, though they made good sense. However, I’ve met a few who said the self-help category was beneficial for them. I have yet to find someone who sobered up with them as their only resource and no other program.

Self Directed Recovery

Though infrequent, I’ve met numerous people who stopped through their homegrown recovery method. Usually, they employed a mix of actions and changes in thinking that they had learned helped with cleaning up, including becoming more active in their religion, engaging more with friends and family, and taking on more activities that didn’t include drinking (community service).

Although some die-hards would judge these types as non-alcoholics, their stories belie someone with a real problem. The fact that they could compile steps in their minds and had the willingness to do them and get sober is inspiring, even if it is uncommon.


There’s no need to throw up your hands in disgust if you don’t want to use AA or other 12 step programs to get sober. There are a variety of different methods that people have used. It takes a bit of research and willingness to seek out these methods and find what works for you.

The journey is yours to make. Many have come before who offer alternative solutions when you don’t like the mainstay AA.

It is normal to be rebellious to attend the treatment that seemingly everyone recommends as well. It is everyone’s right to experiment with different venues that could work for them.

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