What Is Non-Religious Treatment?

Both religious and non-religious (or secular) treatment programs emphasize the biological, psychological, environmental, and social components of recovery.

The difference between the two is that non-religious treatment does not promote a connection with a higher power and does not include Christian, Muslim, or any other faith-related formatting.

What Behavioral Therapies Are Used In Non-Religious Treatment?

Non-religious addiction treatment uses various therapies to help participants maintain abstinence. Behavioral therapies help someone develop recovery skills that support long-term recovery. The most common behavioral therapies for addiction treatment include the following.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT teaches that a person’s thoughts directly influence how a person behaves and how negative thinking influences negative behaviors. CBT teaches people how to identify negative thinking patterns that come from internal and external sources and make appropriate changes to avoid a relapse.

Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Negative thoughts, feelings, life events, and circumstances can be triggers for using drugs or alcohol. ACT teaches someone battling addiction to accept the negative factors and implement actions to cope with them. Mindfulness activities play a positive role in awareness and commitment to change.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Not everyone is completely ready for change when they enter secular treatment. Recovery can be challenging in the beginning. MET is a technique to help someone gain motivation for treatment and recovery.

Contingency Management Therapy (CMT)

Rewards and incentives motivate some people to maintain positive behaviors. CMT uses them to encourage people to maintain abstinence. Achieving milestones is rewarded. For example, if someone avoids relapse for 30 days, they may get extra free time, a token, or something else they choose as a reward.

Family Therapy

Family therapy may also include couples counseling. Because addiction affects every member of an immediate family, everyone must know how to support someone in recovery. Various types of family therapies are effective secular treatments, including the following:

  • Psychoeducation is a great way to engage families in the recovery process.
  • Systemic motivational therapy helps build a team to overcome addiction together.
  • Behavioral family therapy is contingency management for everyone supporting recovery.
  • Family recovery support groups are community resources to help families in recovery.

Other Types Of Non-Religious Treatments

Pharmaceutical treatments offer benefits in treating substance use disorders (SUD) and alcohol use disorders (AUD). They increase a person’s length of stay and reduce a person’s use of illicit, potentially life-threatening substances.

Non-religious rehabs using medication assistance may include the following:

Non-Religious Alternatives To AA

Most traditional treatment programs recommend or offer recovery support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Groups like these are faith-based, with exercises focusing on the relationship between a person and their higher power.

Highly effective alternatives to AA exist, including the following.

SMART™ Recovery

SMART™ Recovery aims to empower the person in recovery with positive coping skills. The program focuses on finding motivation to stay sober, creating balance, solving problems, and overcoming cravings. They offer in-person and online meetings.

Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS)

SOS also promotes self-empowerment using various recovery tools someone can obtain at a local or online meeting. Sobriety is the top priority, so SOS focuses on replacing the cycle of addiction with a cycle of sobriety. Peer support is also an integral part of the program.


LifeRing programs highlight how mutual support from non-judgmental members aids sobriety. Their philosophy is that a person is in control of their recovery. Successful recovery consists of sobriety, secularity, and self-help. They offer recovery tools, online or local meetings, and psychoeducation materials as part of their non-religious treatment.

Women For Sobriety (WFS)

WFS is a secular treatment program that focuses on the unique needs of women in recovery. In-person and online meeting options are available, including chat rooms and social media groups. WFS promotes long-term recovery through outreach, story-sharing, self-discovery, and peer support.

Reduction Techniques

Not everyone is ready to quit drinking altogether, but they may be ready to reduce their intake of alcohol. Non-religious groups exist to help people do so with support.

Moderation Management is a group that offers in-person, online, telephone, and other personalized support options.

Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support (HAMS) is another secular treatment group that helps people achieve their goal of reducing the amount of alcohol they consume. While reduction is the primary goal, many people do choose abstinence.

Secular AA

Secular AA is a version of Alcoholics Anonymous minus the inclusion of spirituality or religion. The 12 steps can be valuable to people seeking recovery from alcohol and drugs. Another component is fellowshipping with peers, a known benefit, especially in early recovery.

Benefits Of Non-Religious Treatment

A study found in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment compared the effectiveness of non-religious treatment programs WFS, LifeRing, and SMART Recovery to 12-step groups. Researchers found the alternatives were just as effective as the religious 12-step groups due to the following benefits:

  • Social support for abstinence
  • Attendance in a group setting
  • Sober culture
  • Tools to motivate abstinence

In a study on the SMART Recovery program, researchers found participant benefits to be:

  • Successful reduction and abstinence
  • Improved mental health
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved social connections

Why People May Prefer Non-Religious Treatment

Not everyone in need of addiction treatment is religious, and even some who are may not want religion to be a factor in their recovery. Currently, most addiction treatment centers offer faith-based 12-step programs. Those who are not religious may reject seeking the help they need if they think they will be forced to attend a spiritual support group.

People want equal opportunities when it comes to substance abuse treatment. Someone discontented with religion or spirituality should be able to utilize recovery tools without worrying if they will be judged or alienated. Some people have tried numerous religious programs without success and want to try something different.

Preferences for secular treatment may also include a desire to focus on peer support and steps for self-empowerment.

Looking For Non-Religious Addiction Treatment?

Fortunately, many facilities are adding non-religious treatment options to their program. Contact a treatment provider to learn more about your treatment options and get answers to your questions about non-religious rehab.