Why 12-Step Doesn't Work

You can choose to be beaten by addiction for life or empowered to move ahead.

You can choose 12-step forever or you can make the changes you need to get on with a successful life.

Click Here Get Help Now

Why not make a critical decision using quality information and common sense? Here's our opinion:

12-Step Programs:
Morals & disease based program
What is a morals/disease based program?
Holistic based program
What is a holistic based program?
  • Labels you an addict for life, beaten by addictions, no self control, needing lifetime membership


  • Optimistic outlook, you CAN become a new and better person
  • Empowering you to transform your perception of addiction
  • Culture of fear of failure and certainty of failure


  • Culture of confidence in an individual's ability to succeed
  • If progress is not made, client is forced to repeat the same 12 steps over and over...
  • "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
    --Albert Einstein


  • Using evidence based tools
  • Learning how to find new tools to apply differently in each new situation
  • Supporting lifelong positive growth through continued learning
  • Culture of fear of failure and certainty of failure


  • Culture of confidence in an individual's ability to succeed
  • Focused only on addictions


  • Provides a broad spectrum of life tools
  • Uses cognitive therapy
  • Christian approach dominant


  • Common sense based approach applicable for everyone
  • Lifetime attendance required


  • Producing quick results
  • Christian approach dominant


  • Common sense based approach applicable for everyone
  • Focuses on programs for a singular drug or type of addiction, such as cocaine, alcohol, gambling


  • Covers any addiction, overlapping addictions and conditions
  • Addresses underlying erroneous thinking and poor life skills
  • One problem, one solution one approach


  • Holistic approach, mind and body, nutrition, exercise, recreation, communication, relaxation, school/work life, social life/skills
  • Testimonial based


  • Research based

Making a decision about rehab is one of life's major turning points. The cost of the wrong decision is high for all those involved. How do you make such a decision? Do you research first, or go by hearsay?

12-step programs have very little research to prove their effectiveness, consider the following:

Abbreviated from: 1. After Drug Treatment: Are 12-Step Programs Effective in Maintaining Abstinence?

  • The rise in the number of 12-step programs, members and the inclusion of 12-step philosophy in treatment programs are evidence only of its popularity, not of its effectiveness.

  • AA contends that upward of 75% of its members maintain abstinence. However, the evidence for this claim is typically testimonials of long-term, abstinent participants.
  • By not considering dropouts, who may be more likely to continue or resume drug and alcohol abuse, the effectiveness of 12-step programs is probably exaggerated.
  • Approximately 50% of AA participants drop out within the first 3 months of attendance, and only about 13% of initial attendees will maintain a long-term relationship with AA.

Abbreviated from: 2. Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure

  • Although at least half and perhaps as many as nine out of ten alcoholics in the US have been to an AA meeting once in their lives, only about 5 to 8 percent of alcoholics return often enough for AA to count them as members.

  • Two studies attempting to measure the impact of AA participation against control groups both concluded that AA participation was less effective than either nothing or participation in secular treatment.

  • A sympathetic long-term comparative study of AA-based treatment, by Harvard professor George Vaillant, found that the rate of relapse for those who had participated in the AA-based treatment was no different than for the untreated control group.

  • On the basis of this and a good deal of other data, most of it circumstantial but in the aggregate quite suggestive, Bufe concludes that there is no good evidence that participation in AA has any measurable effect in improving rates of recovery from alcoholism

Here is an overview of the core fundamentals of the two programs:

Morals Based 12-Step Programs


Cognitive / Problem Based Therapy

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought though prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood. Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) (1999) reports that cognitive therapy is an effective intervention for drug addiction treatment.

Problem focused strategies are used in cognitive therapies to help the individual transform their perception of the problem.

Problem focused strategies help the client to identify a specific problem(s).

The client is then assisted in identifying the responses that he/she typically used to reduce distress in the situation such as drinking.

The client is then assisted to evaluate their typical responses for their effectiveness, lack of effectiveness, and cost, such as wife leaving me because I drink.

The client is then assisted to develop alternative responses or other ways they can handle the situation in a more effective and positive way

The client can then make conscious choices about how he/she chooses to respond to stressful situations.

Clients develop the cognitive skills needed to deal with social pressures, interpersonal conflict, and negative emotions

This leads to the client developing a greater sense of control and empowerment, which serve to enhance self-esteem, and wellbeing.

Cognitive therapy can include treatment for other problems during rehab treatment.  It is very effective at treating clients who also suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues

Once the techniques taught in cognitive therapy are mastered, the client can apply them to any area of their life where they experience distress

Abbreviated from: 3. Cognitive Theory and Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment

Cognitive therapy is proven. The techniques taught can be applied to all areas of life, including relationships, communication, work, and health. Cognitive therapy empowers the individual to make change.

The choice is yours, the outcome is yours, the power is yours to decide.

Learn more now... call toll free 1-800-314-8328

Online Brochure Printable Brochure
320 Kb, requires Adobe Acrobat 1.5 Mb, requires Adobe Acrobat

We thank reference source authors, and acknowledge that our viewpoint may not be the same as theirs nor our interpretation of their work.

Abbreviated from:

1. After Drug Treatment: Are 12-Step Programs Effective in Maintaining Abstinence?  American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Feb 1999 by Robert Fiorentine, http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0978/is_1_25/ai_54097338

2. Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure, by Charles Bufe (2nd edition, 1997), Reviewed by Marty N., http://www.unhooked.com/booktalk/bufebook.htm

3. Cognitive Theory and Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment,  Jerald Cilente, PhD, Mental Health Professional, Clinical Psychologist, Alcohol Addiction Forum


Additional Background Materials:

4. Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse, Aaron T. Beck, Fred D. Wright, Cory F. Newman, Bruce S. Liese, 1993 The Guildford Press, New York

5. The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns, 1999, M.D., Penguin Group, New York

6. Concurrent Disorders: Mental Disorders and Substance Use Problems, heretohelp.bc.ca, BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/publications/factsheets/concurrent.shtml

7. BC Planning Framework for Problematic Substance Use and Addiction, Mental Health and Addictions Publications, Province of British Columbia, Canada http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/mhd/pdf/framework_for_substance_use_and_addiction.pdf

8. Drinking: are you in control?, Review of Dr. Nancy Snyderman's 20/20 report, http://www.aa2.org/researchup_archives/drinking_reupdate.htm