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The Steps Don’t work, we use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Wait, WHAT??!!!?!

I recently spoke to a few treatment centers and therapists who have made bold statements like, “The 12 steps don’t work, but have you considered using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Motivational Interviewing?”  As a Master’s level professional with over a decade of experience working with addiction, I find it horrifying and ignorant to hear these statements coming from professionals who claim to understand addiction.

Most Sober Living in New Jersey already does not have enough encouragement toward the 12-step process; maybe 30 meetings in 30 days, but there often is no accountability, motivation and encouragement toward the steps. This problem coupled with the lack of real information or knowledge amongst professionals in the addiction field regarding the 12-step approach is proving to be detrimental and contributes to the overall chronic relapse cycle.  This lack of information, coupled with a drug court system that sanctions people to “double up on meetings” or “get a sponsor” (that they do not want or know how to use) has made the idea of 12-step recovery a joke for many professionals in the field. 12-step recovery is not a cheep $1 form of group therapy!

A Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor and/or any addiction treatment facility should have an incredibly deep and effective knowledge of the 12-step principles and a working knowledge of the 12-step process. Why? Because as a form of therapy, the 12-steps have helped more people recover then any other therapeutic models combined.  Why else? Because the real truth of the Twelve Steps is that it is a deep and effective spiritual process rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). When someone has a deep and effective understanding of the process they can motivate change. All quality addiction treatment, aftercare or sober living in New Jersey and any other state, should be utilizing these methods.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders (such as depression or addiction issues). All of the 12-steps are designed to challenge and eliminate unwanted behavior patterns of drinking/drug use, selfish and dishonest behaviors and transform the person into a productive member of society.

Step 1 is rooted in a complete surrender; ego deflation at a level that most of society cannot and will not ever understand. For the rest of the 12-steps to be effective, the addict/alcoholic must have the ability to give up the fight and be willing to follow directions. They must be willing to say “I can not do this on my own anymore, my ideas don’t work.” Then the person looks toward Step 2 for the solution.

For CBT to be effective, the person with the disorder must release control and accept that their thinking and actions are no longer productive, etc. Sounds familiar, right? They make the same statement that a person makes in Step 1, then they look to the therapist for direction. The other option is the therapist helps them to see that their behaviors are no longer working and they are encouraged to try something else. Either way you look at it, it’s the same principle as the first step.

The main challenge with any path to recovery, whether or not it utilizes the 12-step model, is ego-deflation – that complete surrender and ability to give up on one’s own ideas.  Therapists, counselors and even good sponsors are all trying to communicate these ideas into the person who has the desire to recover.

As professionals with a deep understanding of the 12-step process it is our job to encourage, teach and help folks understand the necessity of this practice. Treatment centers, counselors and sober living in New Jersey all need to be pushed to a higher standard.