12 Step Fellowships Not a Replacement for Addiction Treatment

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12 step fellowships

The relationship between the addiction treatment industry and 12 step fellowships has on occasion been a challenging one. Elder sponsors in 12 step fellowships often say the whole solution to the addiction or alcoholism problem can be solved within the rooms of 12 step fellowships. Treatment professionals and the agencies that govern the addiction treatment industry through decades of data and research know that while 12 step fellowships offer significant value, they alone are not enough. This post will explore the reasons why 12-step programs are not a sufficient substitute for professional addiction treatment.

12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery have been instrumental in helping individuals recover from addiction by providing a supportive community and a structured approach to addressing addictive behaviors. However, these programs lack the comprehensive treatment modalities and individualized care that professional addiction treatment centers offer. This post will discuss the limitations of 12-step programs in addressing the complex needs of individuals struggling with addiction and highlight the importance of seeking professional treatment for long-term recovery.

Limitations of 12 Step Fellowships

One of the key limitations of 12-step programs is their one-size-fits-all approach. While these programs can be effective for some individuals, they may not address the specific needs and underlying issues that contribute to an individual’s addiction. Professional addiction treatment centers, on the other hand, offer a wide range of evidence-based treatment modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and individual counseling, that can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each client.

Another limitation of 12-step programs is their lack of professional oversight and accountability. While these programs are led by peers who have gone through similar experiences, they do not have the same level of training and expertise as addiction treatment professionals. Professional treatment centers employ licensed therapists, doctors, and nurses who can provide comprehensive care and monitor the progress of each client to ensure they are receiving the appropriate level of support and intervention.

Additionally, 12 step feelowships are not governed by a standard of care. Every sponsor within a 12 step fellowship provides mentorship/sponsorship in a way that was passed on to them but ultimately from their own perspective and experience. There is no measure of outcomes to monitor the success of the sponsor’s efforts. While in addiction treatment there is a strict standard of care and an adherence to evidence based practices where outcomes are measured using the same baselines accross the board.

Furthermore, 12-step programs may not be equipped to address co-occurring mental health disorders that often accompany addiction. Many individuals struggling with addiction also have underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, that need to be addressed in conjunction with their addiction. Professional treatment centers offer dual diagnosis treatment, which integrates mental health care with addiction treatment to provide a holistic approach to recovery.

Finally, 12 step fellowships typically have no place for persons on Medication Assisted Treatment. Often times people who are prescribed Suboxone, Methadone or Sublocade are not considered to be clean and sober by the greater 12 step community. This creates a barrier for people seeking fellowship and community to supplement their aftercare. While it is proven that these medications save and extend the lives of addicts, they are not commonly accepted in the rooms of 12 step fellowships.

Examples of Insufficiency in 12 Step Programs

For example, a person struggling with alcohol addiction may benefit from the support and community offered by Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. However, they may also need medical detoxification, counseling to address underlying trauma, and medication management to address co-occurring depression. These services are not typically available through 12-step programs and highlight the importance of seeking professional treatment for comprehensive care.

Similarly, a person struggling with opioid addiction may find support and encouragement in Narcotics Anonymous meetings. However, they may also need medication-assisted treatment, relapse prevention therapy, and vocational training to address the physical, psychological, and social aspects of their addiction. These services are typically available through professional addiction treatment centers and can significantly improve the individual’s chances of long-term recovery.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, while 12-step programs can be a valuable resource for individuals struggling with addiction, they cannot replace professional addiction treatment. The limitations of 12-step programs, such as their one-size-fits-all approach, lack of professional oversight, and inability to address co-occurring mental health disorders, highlight the importance of seeking comprehensive care from licensed professionals. By combining the support and community of 12-step programs with the evidence-based treatment modalities offered by professional addiction treatment centers, individuals can receive the holistic care they need to achieve long-term recovery from addiction.

While the spiritual approach of 12 step programs has proven to have tremendous impact on long term recovery from alcohol and drugs, the scientific approach of addiction treatment programs and addiction treatment professionals proves successful in a way that is unparalleled. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse issues, contact Magnolia Ranch Recovery today and get started on the path of long-term recovery.

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Picture of Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP
Esra Ahmed - MS, NCC, LPC, MHSP

Experienced Clinical Director with a demonstrated history of working in the hospital & health care industry. Skilled in Anger Management, Healthcare, Medicine, EMDR, and Life Transitions. Strong healthcare services professional with a Masters Degree focused in Psychology from The University of Memphis.

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