Are There Any Good Alternatives to AA? 5 AA Alternatives to Consider

May 11, 2022 | rehab

These AA alternatives take a unique approach to recovery,

While data surrounding the success of AA and other programs is inconclusive, early evidence seems to point out that AA and 12-step programs boast a fairly high success rate. For example, a study by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism followed up with addicts eight years after a separate AA study and found that 49% of those who attended AA remained sober. 

However, other studies have come out, showing promising results for addicts who recover through SMART, LifeRing, and Women for Sobriety. According to the author of the Vox article cited, many of these alternatives effectively reach addicts who don’t succeed through traditional 12-step programs. 

While many of these alternatives to AA may not be well known, they could be viable options for addicts who have struggled with frequent relapses. These AA alternatives take a unique approach to recovery, which can be combined with traditional therapy, holistic medicine, experiential medicine, and even AA to achieve amazing results. 

With that in mind, let’s discuss five of the most popular alternatives to AA and Al Anon and see whether or not they are right for your treatment plan. 

These AA alternatives take a unique approach to recovery,

1. SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a psychological treatment program designed to promote positive habits and eliminate bad habits. As a result, SMART can be employed for various addictions, ranging from alcoholism and drug abuse to gambling addictions. 

SMART takes a scientific approach to recovery by challenging patients to explore addiction’s effects on their lives. For example, SMART councilors often use cost/benefit analysis and hierarchy of values charts to help patients contemplate their relationship to addiction and determine to reform it.

In fact, SMART utilizes a stage-based approach to recovery, allowing patients to evolve through each stage, similar to steps, to achieve full recovery. 

SMART also provides practical advice for patients through its 4-point program, which teaches patients the following skills:

  • Building motivation to get sober.
  • Learning to cope and suppress urges.
  • Managing thoughts and feelings that lead to relapse.
  • Finding a balance in their lives that promotes sobriety. 

SMART incorporates individual and group therapy and can be used with AA to achieve successful recovery. 

2. LifeRing

LifeRing is a secular treatment program that promotes group interactions and individual empowerment to achieve sustained recovery. 

Adherents of LifeRing believe in strengthening the ‘sober self’ over the ‘addict self’ to achieve recovery. Fundamentally, LifeRing seeks to stimulate positive feelings and encourage conversation with others to help individuals learn more about themselves and what triggers their relapse. 

Similar to AA, LifeRing involves a lot of group meetings and is run by ‘convener’ who facilitates the conversation. However, LifeRing doesn’t involve sponsors or steps. For an alternative to AA that encompasses many of the same group activities, LifeRing is certainly worth researching. 

3. Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety is an alcoholics recovery group entirely dedicated to women. Similar to the previous alternatives to AA, Women for Sobriety teaches women self-confidence. All participants in a group session typically open the meeting by saying something positive about themselves. 

Also similar to AA, Women for Sobriety meets in groups of around 8-10 women once a week and is run by a long-term sober moderator.

Fundamentally, this program teaches women that by changing their thoughts, they can overcome addiction. As a result, women are provided with literature and 13 statements they need to recite to reform their thinking. 

Additionally, women are also taught how to live a healthy lifestyle using holistic medicine and healthy dieting to achieve recovery. 

4. Moderation Management 

Moderation Management differs drastically from all of these AA alternatives on this list because it doesn’t teach abstinence. Instead, Moderation Management seeks to aid individuals who have formed poor drinking habits and teach them positive habits to eliminate problematic behavior. 

Moderation management believes that alcoholism is a choice and can be reformed or reduced to achieve desirable goals in one’s life. Ultimately, this program seeks to cut down on the negative effects of alcoholism, like impaired driving, excessive binge drinking, and daily drinking. 

In addition, Moderation Management seeks to supplant poor drinking habits with healthier lifestyle choices for greater individual success. 

5. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

SOS is probably the most similar alternative to AA, but it boasts no ties to outside organizations, including religious organizations. All members are welcome to SOS meetings, which are structured very similarly to AA meetings. For example, meetings often involve storytelling and beginning the meetings by recognizing one’s addiction. 

However, SOS meetings are strictly meetings and do not have sponsors or a 12-step program like AA. For this reason, SOS may be a good program to attend if you’re sober for a long-time or not looking to follow the 12-steps. 


If you’re looking for an alternative to AA, don’t be afraid to experiment with any number of programs listed above. In addition, therapy, holistic medicine, exercise, and several other treatment options can aid you in recovery. 

By combining many of these alternatives with AA, addicts may receive the best shot at achieving recovery. But, ultimately, we suggest finding a program-best tailored to you and your needs.