What Are the Alternative Pathways to Recovery Aside from AA?


Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has become the de facto treatment program for addiction recovery in America. The nonprofit, volunteer organization’s peer-based meeting groups and 12-step program are universally accepted in the addiction recovery community as effective methods for achieving initial sobriety as well as maintaining long term abstinence from substance abuse. 

There are no hard statistics on success rates for AA since the tenet of anonymity prevents any real polling efforts, but its methods of self-introspection and community-building — methods that began as early as the 1930s — are still mirrored in today’s modern medical and psychological fields for the treatment of addictive and mental health disorders.

Although AA refrains from affiliating with any particular organization, the majority of rehab clinics and outpatient services have adopted the organization’s 12-step philosophy as a therapeutic modality of major influence in addiction recovery treatment. Either practiced in group, individual therapy sessions, or through attendance at nightly meetings, AA is a dominant force at rehab facilities. 

This overwhelming influence of the 12 steps in the addiction treatment community can pose a problem in ensuring a thorough, well-rounded regimen of treatment is provided for those with an addictive disorder. This is not to imply that the 12 steps are ineffective; just simply to reiterate the need for a variety of therapeutic modalities to manage sobriety. We recommend you throw as many effective treatment methods at an addictive disorder as you can and see which best suits you. 

Each diagnosed case of an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues is unique to the individual, and therefore, each case needs a unique treatment method tailored to the individual. Addiction recovery patients will respond differently to certain therapeutic modalities, and for some, AA is not the preferred method of treatment for addiction recovery. For these individuals, there is still a multitude of well-respected addiction treatment programs that do not rely on AA or the 12-step philosophy to achieve long term sobriety. We have listed some of the most viable candidates below.

SMART Recovery

The nonprofit self-help support group known as SMART Recovery is one of two addiction treatment programs that closely resemble the framework of AA. Groups get together weekly to discuss and advocate positive actions to promote abstinence from addictive disorders and behavioral problems of all backgrounds. The main difference between AA and SMART Recovery would be SMART Recovery’s lack of religious/spiritual innuendo and their focus on modern-day psychology as the primary source outlining the guidelines for addiction treatment. 

One other key difference is that SMART Recovery refuses to dwell in the past — no dredging up old substance abuse war stories to earn your addiction card — and instead emphasizes the positive preventative measures that you can take in the present to help ward off triggers and relapse. Local meetings are more plentiful in larger cities and on the west coast, but SMART Recovery is rapidly growing in popularity as an effective alternative to AA. You can find out more information about SMART Recovery and local meetings on their website.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) is the second nonprofit support group very similar to AA. The SOS. practices many of the same routines as both SMART Recovery and AA like meeting weekly with peers and the only membership requirement being a desire for sobriety. The major difference is once again a lack of religious influence and language in SOS’s doctrine as noted in the title of their name.    

Traditional Therapy & Outpatient Services

Traditional therapy is always recommended for individuals in addiction recovery, and in many cases, dependent on the frequency of sessions, can be an alternative to AA. Patients can set up one on one therapy sessions to focus intensively on self-reflection and become more aware of the root causes of their addictive or mental health disorders. Of course, traditional therapy will not provide any form of an addiction recovery community, an aspect that AA excels at accomplishing. 

To meet the need for an active addiction recovery community, outpatient services are a great alternative to AA meetings and can serve as a continuation of the group therapy sessions previously conducted in rehab. The unfortunate aspect of both of these options is that they cost money that most individuals without insurance will be unable to afford over an extended period. If you do have insurance — most insurance plans cover mental health visits today — these are both viable options for a more intimate, individualized approach to addiction recovery treatment.

Meditation Centers

Practicing regular meditation and mindfulness has been proven to be an effective method for maintaining sobriety and improving impulse control. For the uninitiated, mindfulness meditation involves guided or unguided self-reflection with an emphasis on placing awareness on the present moment through such physical actions as mirroring your breath. The psychological benefits from meditation include an increased self-awareness that slows down reaction times; for addiction recovery patients, they begin to become less reactionary to potential triggers which affords them the chance to choose how to respond. That split second of pause – acting instead of reacting – can mean the difference between relapse or continuous sobriety. There are a variety of meditation centers across the nation, and what makes them so amenable for addiction treatment is that you do not have to find one that focuses on addiction recovery alone to get the same mindfulness benefits.


If you or someone you love is seeking an AA alternative treatment for an addictive disorder with co-occurring mental health issues, then Choice House has a variety of therapeutic modalities to meet your treatment needs and put you on the path to sober living. We offer a dual-diagnosis approach to addiction recovery treatment to help men create a new foundation of love and empathy as they learn the necessary skills to maintain long term sobriety. Our treatment program includes a 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, as well as the opportunity to take up residence at our sober living campus. Choice House facilities are ideally situated between the beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park and the bustling city of Louisville. This proximity to the urban setting of city life is greatly beneficial for outpatient services as well as residents at our sober living campus. Addiction recovery patients participating in either program get the guidance and structure so necessary in early recovery while still being able to maintain gainful employment and keep up social lives. The 90-day inpatient program also takes full advantage of the facility’s location implementing a unique outdoor wilderness therapy. With the Rocky Mountains literally in our backyard, men are allowed to reconnect and bond with fellow addiction recovery patients, nature, and themselves. We strongly feel that the friendships you make here will last a lifetime and prove vital to the recovery process long after you have left. For more information about Choice House facilities and addiction treatment programs, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.

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