CBT Alternatives to the 12 Steps

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of therapy available to treat many types of conditions, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse. In CBT counselling, a person would look at the thoughts or evaluations that they use every day which form the basis of their emotions. For example, if you think people are untrustworthy, you would
be more likely to be anxious, suspicious, and angry at others.

There are many ways to use CBT counselling in addiction treatment in conjunction or as an alternative to the 12 Step approach. The 12 steps are a support group model first started with Alcoholics Anonymous. A person attends an AA or other 12 step program and works through the steps, completing tasks to help them gain control over their substance use and their lives again. Not everyone wants to use this model however, so let’s look at options that CBT can provide for you.

Fundamentals of the 12 Steps

Working through the 12-steps is not a simple process. Here they are so that you can see what is required to work through an AA type program.

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 through 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.

This is a type of program that requires a great deal of contemplation, as well as confronting things that may be unpleasant about ourselves. It focuses a great deal on spirituality, and many feel that it has strong religious implications.

Why Some People Don’t Like the 12 Steps

12 Step programs have done a lot of good, but they don’t work for all people. Some will not like the religious aspect of it. For people who are atheists or agnostics, admitting there is a higher power will naturally go against their beliefs. This internal conflict can get in the way of progress and addiction treatment for them. The religious nature of it is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Another aspect that some don’t like about 12 Steps programs is that it removes all agency from the individual. It was their actions that caused them to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but it’s going to be some higher power that has to save them. Having no credit for the victories is something that some see as being demoralizing.

One other part of a 12 Step program that is often criticized is how it is reinforcing the negative constantly. There is owning up to mistakes, which is important, but there is no step to celebrate their successes. It is important to actually recognize and reinforce positive and healthy habits, and times when someone did the right thing, which traditional 12 Step programs frequently overlook.

How Does a CBT Approach Differ?

Using CBT, many of these reasons that form resistance to treatment and support groups can be lessened or removed entirely. Alternatives to 12 Step programs in Chiang Mai are real and can be helpful to people who are not happy with a traditional AA type program.

CBT counsellors in Thailand and Chiang Mai will use the science and the research behind this form of therapy to help you. This involves helping someone understand the thoughts behind the feelings and actions, looking at behaviors that are both helpful and unhelpful, and motivating their clients to keep going. Sometimes all it takes is that helpful motivation to keep going on the path to recovery.

SMART recovery is part of the alternative to 12 Step programs. It’s a type of support group that has the spiritual aspect removed. That does not mean that spirituality is negative or forbidden, it’s just not necessary for treatment.

SMART recovery helps by building motivation, self-esteem and self-efficacy. In it, people are encouraged, and there is no confrontation and needing to surrender to a higher power. It looks to solve specific problems and help a person identify their role in their substance use, and address the problems and use their strengths. Also, SMART recovery tries to teach how to find balance in life, and live in a healthy way within a family and a community. Looking at the 12 Steps, it’s easy to see that this is a very different approach to treatment, that can potentially reach people who are not helped by a more traditional model.

Where to Find SMART Recovery Meetings in Chiang Mai?

Although SMART Recovery meetings can only be accessed online from Chiang Mai we offer individualised programmes that incorporate the fundamentals of SMART recovery and CBT alternatives to 12 Steps.