Alcohol, Nicotine, & Other Drug Use Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


I have heard that in recent years alternatives to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) have emerged, with approaches that are quite different from AA's. Can you tell me the names of these groups, how they are different, and where to contact them?


In the last two decades six alternative support groups for addictive behavior have emerged. These groups are: Women for Sobriety (WFS), Rational Recovery Systems (RR), Moderation Management (MM), Men for Sobriety (MFS) (same as Women for Sobriety), Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Our Selves (SOS), and S.M.A.R.T. Recovery (SMART).

These six organizations are similar to AA in that they offer free groups (donations are requested) with the goal of helping members achieve abstinence (MM supports moderation). They are also quite different from AA. They neither encourage nor discourage belief in a higher power. None (except WFS/MFS) emphasizes the idea that substance problems are diseases. They focus instead on these problems as complex maladaptive behaviors. They use a small group discussion format, not a series of monologues. They do not use sponsors (a personal recovery coach you meet with between meetings). They do not encourage lifetime attendance.

Despite their similarities, there are also significant differences between these six groups. To mention just two: WFS is only for women with alcohol, or alcohol and other drug problems; SMART focuses on any addictive behavior. I've put the telephone numbers, addresses, and online addresses in the Links and Lists section. Check 'em out! If you've had concerns about your drinking or other drug use, there's something here for you.

Signed, Arthur T. Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP

(Dr. Horvath is on the Board of Directors of SMART Recovery and lent his knowledge in responding to this question.)


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