Alcoholics Anonymous may be one of the most common treatment programs out there, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Recovery can be supported in a variety of ways. Different people with different conditions need slightly different approaches to healing. Finding the right management and recovery support for alcoholism and drug use disorder starts with gathering information.
Q. What’s the basic difference between your philosophy and that of Alcoholics Anonymous?
A. Alcoholics Anonymous most closely aligns with the disease model, which states that addiction is a disease, therefore, addicted people have no control over the substance and its addictive powers. A key part of the disease model is that it is irreversible, and because it cannot be cured, lifelong abstinence is necessary. AA requires strict abstinence, as the model does not allow for moderation or personal control.
We base our programs at Sunshine Coast Health Centre and Georgia Strait Women’s Clinic on Meaning-Centered Therapy. We have a philosophy of care that goes beyond just addiction to include personal transformation based on three key therapeutic principles: interpersonal relatedness, self-definition (autonomy & competence), and intrinsic motivation. Our treatments are highly personalized and centered around a methodology of empowerment.
Q. What Alcoholics Anonymous‘ 12 steps, and what does it mean that you are a non-12 step program?
A. AA’s 12-Step approach follows a set of guidelines designed as “steps” toward recovery. It starts with admitting you are powerless over alcohol – that your life has become unmanageable and ends with a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. The 12 steps of AA are religious in nature and require the belief in a power greater than yourself.
We offer a non 12 step program in Canada for drug rehab and alcohol treatment. Our programs are based on the theory and practice of Meaning-Centered Therapy (MCT), developed by psychologist Dr. Paul T. P. Wong.
Dr. Wong was heavily influenced by Viktor Frankl and used personal meaning as a way to organize different therapies such as existential psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, narrative therapy, and positive psychology into a unified therapeutic approach. Most importantly, our focus on personal meaning requires us to make certain assumptions such as:
Our Clients are Whole Human Beings
We do not treat an addict or an addiction. We treat human beings. We do not believe that a person with an addiction can be reduced down to mere thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. As psychologist Jefferson A. Singer (1997) concluded, we must “take in the full dimensions of their lives – to see them as whole individuals struggling to achieve a sense of identity [and community]”
Our Clients are Growth-Oriented
Our clients are inherently motivated toward growth where, if they can overcome barriers to the growth process, personal transformation is possible.
Our Clients are the Authors of Their own Lives
Most of our clinical effort is in helping clients take control of their lives, regardless of circumstances or personal and social limitations.
Our Clients are Not Their Pathologies
Our staff recognizes that pathologizing addictive behaviours reinforces the stigma of addiction and disrupts our relationship with clients. Therefore, we refuse to pathologize clients.
With these assumptions in mind, we have designed a therapeutic program based on key principles of Meaning-Centered Therapy.
Q. If I do not believe in God, do not respond to the religious themes of AA, is your program a better fit?
A. We believe so, yes. We know our non 12 step program methodology to be unique. Many people are looking for non-religiously based methodologies and find the non 12 step methodologies a better fit for them. They’re often excited to learn about meaning-centered therapy as an alternative to AA in British Columbia and in Canada in general.
While other programs focus on abstinence or reducing harm, we believe that the recovery process needs to move beyond mere healing. Instead, we help our clients experience personal transformation and full integration into society.
Q. What if I am a Christian / believer but I still don’t like the Alcoholics Anonymous format, will I feel out of place at Georgia Straight?
A. Absolutely not. We believe it is important that clients feel free to be themselves. Our clients are treated with respect and dignity at all times. We welcome women from all walks of life including different religious beliefs. Our meaning-center approach focuses on long-term aspirations such as developing intimate relatedness with friends/family, pursuing a fulfilling career, and, for some, finding or strengthening spirituality and meaning in life.