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Do Addiction Treatment Centers Need To Modernize?

Many addiction treatment centers take a very traditional approach to treatment. They use systems like the 12 Step Program which was created decades ago. Now, there is a lot of evidence that these programs work to some extent. But should we have moved beyond them in the twenty-first century?

The question of whether addiction treatment centers need to modernize is not new. In fact, many rehabs have modernized, providing holistic treatments that include CBT, DBT, mindfulness, occupational therapy, and more. There is reason to believe that this is the direction other treatment centers should consider going in.

Addiction Treatment Center

Here are some of the reasons addiction treatment centers need to modernize.

Science vs Tradition:

The categorisation of substance use disorders as mental illness did a lot to change perceptions of addiction and addicts. What was once seen as a moral failing and given little sympathy is now understood as a health condition that requires empathy to treat. The 12 Step Program recognizes that addiction is a disease, but in providing an unchanging set of rules to follow to get better, it prescribes something that feels more traditional than scientific.

The fact is that those kinds of programs remain loyal to books written almost a century ago. With all other mental illnesses, formative writing is studied and respected, but seen as a starting point rather than the ultimate cure. Therapists today are taught those books, but practice based on more recent ideas and studies.

Addiction treatment centers should be using modern methods to treat addiction, not systems that are committed to never changing.


When systems like that of the 12 Step Program were developed, the field of psychology was a lot more limited. This was not just because it was fairly young, but also because its practice was limited to a specific subset of people: wealthy, white, and heterosexual. In other words, even within the white majority in the US, psychology focused on the outliers.

Psychology has come a long way since then. It has had to, as hospitals and therapists have needed to get results with people in financial straits, people battling oppression, and people who just didn’t have time to attend therapy more than once a week.

AA has faced this criticism for a long time, but without modernizing it remains the domain of the few. The simple reality is that it is most likely to work if you have all your needs taken care of, and no external stressors like oppression or homelessness.


This is not to say that the old has to be thrown out to accommodate the new. On the contrary, the best systems are those that evolve, and it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel.

Addiction treatment is an ever-changing field that has to regularly be updated to incorporate new evidence and ideas. The best addiction treatment centers offer modern, holistic, therapies.

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