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Aftercare Support Programs: Not Just AA Anymore

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Though AA has strong recognition in the addiction treatment community because of its track record and longevity, there are other aftercare support programs that have similar results. This article gives a brief overview of SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and LifeRing Secular Recovery. How are these programs and AA alike? How do they differ? Why are multiple options a good thing for the addiction treatment community?

Addiction Treatment and Alternatives to 12-Step 

An article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment compared the efficacy of ongoing addiction treatment programs, including SMART Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and LifeRing Secular Recovery as compared to 12-step groups. The study looked at the effectiveness of these programs for those with alcohol use disorder and tentatively concluded that these three programs were just as effective as 12-step recovery programs. That is probably because these programs are actually more similar than different on the whole.

So, what are the differences and similarities between these long-term meeting and recovery programs? Here is a breakout of each.

  • SMART Recovery focuses on practical discussion of ways to continue the recovery process. It does not focus on a spiritual higher power, as AA does; instead, it helps recovering alcoholics develop self-help strategies to improve their lives. It has four tenants, including improving motivation, refusing to act on cravings, sensible everyday tips for maintaining sobriety, and developing a healthier lifestyle.
  • Women for Sobriety and Addiction Treatment is a gender-specific self-help organization that helps with both alcohol and substance use. WFS has Thirteen Acceptance Statements to encourage spiritual and emotional growth. The program is active in the U.S. and Canada and has an online forum as well as local and regional meetings.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery is another abstinence-based network of people sharing their recovery journey. The program, like the others in this article, focuses on peer-to-peer support and counseling as part of a long-term continuing care strategy for alcohol or drug addiction.

Each of these programs focuses on self-help techniques and a guiding philosophy for lives that have become out-of-balance. They all seek to help former substance users confront their daily fears and hopes while addressing ways to build daily affirmations in a framework for improvement and recovery. 

Addiction treatment

These recovery programs focus on the power of peers telling their stories.

These programs are strongly peer-to-peer, emphasizing the actionable insight that comes from people who have been through the disease and have successfully transitioned to recovery. They use the power of the personal story as a touchstone of meetings and discussions. These stories have tremendous power to positively influence others. 

One difference between these programs is that the traditional AA 12-step programs focus on actual activities including higher-power-focused activities in a behavioral therapeutic approach.

However, each of these programs, including AA, seeks to build back lives that have been torn apart by substance use. How they go about it is very similar; it is the nuance in the messaging that is different. But each program is designed to create positive changes in the lives of former substance users. 

These programs emphasize motivation and goal setting while dealing with the emotional rollercoaster of substance abuse recovery. Each is effective at potentially helping patients with the long-term process of continuing care in a recovery setting.

Clinicians and addiction specialists can be glad that studies indicate that these aftercare support programs are all effective in helping recovering addicts maintain long-term sobriety.

Are you a clinician looking for an accredited rehab facility to which to refer patients in need of addiction treatment? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.