United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Mental Health

Self-Help Toolkit: Non-12-Step Programs

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Non-12-Step Programs
Non-12-Step Programs provide group support that fosters self-esteem and self-acceptance while asking individuals to take responsibility for their lives. These programs may be a better option for individuals who are uneasy with the spirituality of 12-step programs.

Please Note: Non-12-step groups are not widely available in all communities. Before referring a patient, check to be sure that the group is available in the patient's home community and conveniently located.

Non-12-Step Group Descriptions & Web Links

  • Secular Organization for Sobriety - Does not include spiritual content; emphasizes rationality and knowledge. Believes group support and making sobriety a life priority facilitates abstinence. Focuses on self-empowerment, avoiding people and places that put sobriety at risk, interrupting negative thoughts, and taking action.

  • Smart Recovery - Uses behavioral techniques to enhance members' capacity to abstain from alcohol and cope with cravings. Teaches self- empowering skills aimed at increasing and maintaining motivation, increasing ability to cope with cravings, solve problems, and achieve a balanced lifestyle. Time-limited (approx. 6 months) rather than lifelong meeting attendance.

  • A group of women in a meeting room.
  • Women for Sobriety - Emphasizes the value of all-female groups to improve members' self-esteem and facilitate recovery. Is based on belief that women alcoholics' psychological needs while in recovery differ from those of men. Its "New Life" acceptance program entails thinking about and reviewing the use of the Thirteen Affirmations daily (e.g., "Negative thoughts destroy only myself," "I am what I think," "Happiness is a habit I will develop.")