Years ago I recall reading a medical paper that was studying the effects of 12 step treatment on various types of addiction. It fascinated me as I was just becoming an interventionist and realizing the fact that 12 step treatment was being used as group therapy for almost everything. A very wide spectrum exists but some common examples include treating people addicted to drugs and alcohol, people with addictions to gambling, compulsive shoppers, compulsive eaters, and even those with addictions to porn.
What stood out to me in this paper was how they observed that 12 step sessions cause many to want to “act out” after the meetings were over. Specifically they wrote about the pornography groups as this was seemingly most obvious. It explained the nonsensical nature of putting 8-12 or more men in a circle and having them talk about pornography. What they liked about it, how it made them feel, past experiences and more. The study revealed what most non-experts would predict: Many were going to get turned on or ‘restimulated’ in such a setting and as a result would have the urge to use again after such a session.
What is so interesting here is that this is exactly what is happening today in most drug and alcohol rehab centers across the US. More than 9 in 10 treatment programs use this style of therapy and what those patients experience is no different. I hear this now, over many years, as people say they felt great prior to arriving at rehab or a local AA or NA meeting and then afterwards simply had to go have a drink or use the drug of choice. It was just too much for them to sit and listen and become immersed in the past like that again and again and hearing all the stories. The urge was fired up and became too great and then they relapse.
Sadly, drug dealers know this, too. Ask anyone who goes to regular AA or NA meetings and they’ll tell you that dealers are often in the parking lot waiting for people to get out for just this reason. I believe this to be a large part of why traditional / disease-based model drug rehab treatment using the 12 step model have such low success rates.
Non 12 Step Rehab
Over the years I have come to find that Non 12 step rehab programs understand all of this and are antipathetic to the common rehab model. First, there is no group therapy in non 12 step rehab treatment; it’s all one on one counseling. This eliminates the problem of group restimulation and all that follows. A non group therapy also allows for a deeper address to the underlying issues that cause the addiction. Second, non 12 step rehab centers do not recognize the concept that the person is somehow diseased and incurable – which is a key part to the common 12 step model.
The downsides are that non 12 step drug rehabs are much harder to find. Also, most classify them as long term rehab due to being 90 days or so in length (as compared to traditional 28 day programs). But that said, when people return from these centers they no longer have their addictions and consequently no longer need a life-long regiment of group therapy sessions at their local AA or NA locations.
This is why many today are finding that the extra effort to locate a non 12 step rehab program and any extra time required for treatment is a small price to pay for real help.