Posted - June 5, 2018

It can be easy to think of drug addiction as an issue that only affects other people: those who are poor or lazy, who live in the bad part of town, who weren’t raised right, or who belong to a different race. Yet the powerful hold that illicit drugs and alcohol can have on people knows no boundaries.

In fact, almost half of all Americans know someone who’s struggled with addiction. And we’re not talking casual acquaintances or coworkers, either. Some 46% of us have a close friend or relative who is, or used to be, an addict.

The silver lining? Today, people who want to conquer their addiction and live a clean and sober life have more options than ever. Read on to learn about alternative addiction treatment programs that go beyond the 12 steps.


Before we look at the variety of alternative addiction treatment modalities, it’s important to understand how Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) paved the way. Before founder Bill W. developed the 12 step program in the 1930s, there wasn’t much hope for addicts. They either white-knuckled their way to sobriety, isolated and scared, or they died from their habit or its consequences.

In fact, addiction wasn’t even considered to be a disease prior to the development of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a moral weakness, a failure, a lack of willpower.

These days, the disease model of addiction is widely accepted. Because there are many factors that determine why one person succumbs to the disease and another doesn’t, there is also a multitude of treatment options.


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a form of treatment used across the board to help people with mental illness. One of its core tenets is mindfulness. Mindfulness asks the recovering addict to be present at the moment and to experience fully his symptoms, thoughts, and emotions. Perhaps even more importantly, it asks him to accept himself without judgment.

This stands in direct contrast to the individual powerlessness that AA emphasizes. Mindfulness acknowledges that temptation and cravings will always be a part of the user’s life. Yet it also gives them a specific set of tools to deal with those cravings and to find self-love and acceptance.


One of the main objections to traditional 12-step programs is that they require belief in a “higher power,” which many people interpret as God. Another objection is that the role of religious faith in recovery isn’t as prominent as it could be.

Faith-based addiction treatment involves contemplation, self-examination, and prayer. It isn’t rooted in a particular religious doctrine but does acknowledge that there are factors outside of our control or understanding. Being receptive to a mystery, a divine presence, or a spiritual component is one way for the drug user to understand their addiction holistically.


EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques, but it’s often called “The Tapping Solution” or just plain “Tapping.” This route to sobriety is rooted in both Eastern philosophies surrounding the body’s energy flow and in Western talk therapy.

Using their fingertips, participants tap gently on their bodies release stuck energy — much as acupressure or acupuncture works to clear and realign bodily energy. At the same time, the individual is encouraged to talk through their memories, emotions, and problems. The two-fold approach combines physical release and emotional healing to help the recovering addict achieve and maintain sobriety.


There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that getting back to nature can have incredible results on our wellbeing — and science backs up that hypothesis. Immersing oneself in outdoor environments can reduce stress, increase creativity, boost kindness, and trigger happiness.

Not only that, but communing with nature can actually change the brain’s structure, making these benefits long-lasting. Wilderness treatment for addiction, also known as ecotherapy, capitalizes on the beneficial neurophysiological effects of nature.

Physical exertion, caring for animals and plants, wholesome nutrition, and plain old fresh air are all part of the equation. So are more traditional therapies like counseling, meditation, and team building.

Exploring the natural world can help the addict to discover a whole new world inside her, too.


Neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, has been shown to help with a variety of disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even Parkinson’s disease. It’s gaining ground as a treatment for addiction, as well.

This treatment modality works on the principle that addicts’ neural pathways are disrupted and dysfunctional. It uses technological methods of recording brain waves and analysis of how those waves differ from healthy neurological activity. Neurofeedback experts then train the addicted individual to alter their brain’s waves and bring it back to a healthy state.

In simpler terms? This treatment seeks to undo the damage done to the brain by drug use. As with many other programs, it puts autonomy back in the hands of the recovering addict, equipping them with tools to maintain sobriety.


At first glance, it may seem as though these alternative addiction treatment programs are very different from one another. Yet they all have one thing in common: compassionate, experienced professionals whose goal is to help the individual overcome addiction.

This support shouldn’t be underestimated. Nor should the value of undergoing treatment alongside others who have struggled with their addiction. Knowing that they are not alone and that many people understand and empathize with them, can be invaluable.


What works for one person may do absolutely nothing for someone else. Traditional 12-step approaches have helped millions of people break free from addiction. Still others “work their program” but find it inadequate or just not right for them.

In truth, there is no one alternative addiction treatment method that is effective across the board. Your loved one may try several therapies before finding something that resonates and has lasting effects. He might even cobble together his own approach that combines aspects of many treatment programs.

Seven Ponds Spiritual Retreat offers four pathways, including faith-based renewal and wilderness recovery. Learn more about our options, contact us with any questions, or apply for treatment at our state-of-the-art center.