Advantages and Disadvantages to Traditional Rehab Programs for Addiction

Advantages and Disadvantages to Traditional Rehab Programs for Addiction


Most rehab programs are pretty much the same out there.  The vast majority of them are focused around the 12 step model of recovery and draw heavily from Alcoholics Anonymous.  There are a few alternatives but they are very scarce compared to 12 step recovery.  This is both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on a number of different factors.

Advantages to widespread 12 step recovery:

1) Universal solution – since everyone pretty much knows what to expect from recovery, people can help each other out a lot more.  Everyone sort of knows the drill and knows that the 12 step program is a fact of life when it comes to the typical rehab program. In other words, it is comforting and easier to use because it dominates the industry.

2) 12 Step recovery is cheap – the program of AA and NA are fully self supporting and do not cost a thing to anyone who does not want to pay any money.  They simply pass a collection basket and the meetings are housed and funded that way.  So using this as a model for widespread recovery works really well, because it is cheap and can be used in a pinch, even in communities that are relatively poor.  If an alternative to 12 step programs came along, but was really expensive, then it would obviously have serious limitations in who it could really help.  For example, therapy or counseling is one such alternative, but it is very expensive compared to 12 step meetings and therefore remains somewhat exclusive.

3) Adaptable – the program of AA has spawned a number of spin offs, because it is adaptable to other problems, such as drugs, gambling, sex, overeating, and so on.  It is a flexible solution that has become a one-size-fits-all approach to recovery.  In some ways this is a good thing.

Disadvantages to 12 step recovery:

1) Not customized for the individual – it’s a one size fits all approach, and therefore lacks customization and personalization (things that might help certain people to stay clean and sober in some cases).

2) Poor success rate across the board – AA claims a high success rate out of those “who really try.”  But for everyone who walks through the door of AA?  Drawn from this larger pool of people, the rate of success is extremely low, with AA internal census data showing at least 78 percent leaving the program during the first year and never returning.

3) Limited focus on personal growth, restricted to “spiritual” growth rather than holistic growth.  This is a missed opportunity for many and can turn into a complacency trap.