What Is the Difference Between Alcoholics Anonymous and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program?

In Honor of Alcohol Awareness Month in April, Gateway highlights the differences between 12-Step Meetings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) and an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program.
What is Alcoholics Anonymous or 12-Step?

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a 12-Step group for those struggling with alcohol use disorder. Led by peers, this group allows participants to follow a set of recovery steps to achieve and maintain abstinence from alcohol.

The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking. AA works through members telling their stories of recovery from alcohol use disorder. AA is nonprofessional – it doesn’t have clinics, doctors, counselors or psychologists. All members are themselves recovering from alcoholism. There is no central authority controlling how AA groups operate. It is up to the members of each group to decide what they do. However, the AA program of recovery has proven to be very successful and almost every group follows it in very similar ways.

How is an Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment Program Different from AA?

Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment believes 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other kinds of recovery support groups play a valuable role in substance abuse treatment, but they only comprise part of the picture.

Gateway believes that a substance use disorder treatment program should include the use of evidence-based practices – drug and alcohol disorder treatments that integrate professional research and clinical expertise to achieve the best outcome for an individual.  The clinical professionals at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers employ evidenced-based practices to create meaningful, individualized treatment programs. We believe there is more than one pathway to recovery so we expose clients to a wide array of treatment methodologies. The greatest benefit can be derived from experiencing 12-step programs in conjunction with evidenced-based treatment.

Gateway engages both adults and teens through a variety of highly effective clinical approaches and therapies to help them get life back on track. On average, Gateway’s drug rehab programs have a 10% higher successful treatment completion rate when compared to other Treatment Providers.

12-Step as Part of Gateway’s Integrated Treatment Programs

“It’s a Personal Choice – Some individuals come to Gateway convinced that a 12-step program is the only thing that will work for them, while others have equally strong reservations about them. We make it a priority to accommodate the needs of clients who are of either mindset and implement the 12-steps accordingly,” said Gilbert Lichstein, LCPC, MS Clinical Psychology, Program Manager at Gateway Chicago.

Gradual Exposure- Our experienced staff utilizes a targeted approach that provides clients with an in-depth understanding of 12-step principles. Our curriculum is designed to break down barriers to participation and “kick start” the process of attending meetings and finding a sponsor.

12-step meetings can not only be challenging for some, they also vary from group to group and meeting to meeting. In order to give clients a good idea of what to expect out of support groups like these after leaving treatment, Gateway provides exposure to 12-steps in multiple settings. To offer our full support, we accompany individuals in our treatment programs to both on-site and off-site 12-step meetings.

For those who prefer not to use 12-step techniques, many Gateway treatment locations offer on-site SMART recovery groups and linkage to other peer support options such as Dual Recovery Anonymous.

To learn more about Gateway’s alcohol and drug treatment programs, visit RecoverGateway.org

About Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers
Every year Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment helps thousands of adults and teens get their life back on track and gives renewed hope to those who care about them. With 50 years of treatment experience, our specialists take the time to understand of the specific needs of each individual. We then develop a customized treatment plan with recommendations for the most appropriate care based on an individual's substance abuse and mental health history. As the largest provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment in Illinois, Gateway has 11 treatment centers throughout the state. Gateway outpatient and residential substance abuse treatment programs are not one-size fits all, but unique treatment plans that give an individual the highest chance for a successful outcome. With insurance acceptance and a track record of success, Gateway Treatment Centers help thousands of individual’s successfully complete treatment each year, and find the hope they need to live again.

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