To better understand the difference between Alcohol Rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), we have to understand that we are comparing two different structures that have the same goal. The goal is to keep clients alcohol-free or sober.

Alcohol rehab clinics employ a system to address the problem. This system includes inpatient and outpatient options for treatment and aftercare support. In alcohol rehab, treatment for alcoholism is called “rehabilitation”.

When someone uses the word “Rehab”, it can mean two things:

  • Treatment for alcohol
  • Alcohol treatment clinic

Now, what aboutAlcoholics Anonymous? According to its website, they have an estimated two million members, with 118,000 groups worldwide. AA was founded by two American men, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. They were the authors of “The Big Book” and “The Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions”. Over time, their work was adapted by other people who were treating drug and alcohol addictions. Examples of these are the “Abstinence Model” or “Minnesota Model” and “Twelve Step Facilitation Therapy”.

Simply put, people can join Alcoholics Anonymous to help them overcome their alcohol addiction. But to recover from alcohol addiction effectively and safely, they must consider joining an alcohol rehab program in an alcohol rehab clinic.

People with alcohol addiction transition better if:

  • They are given full care in a rehab facility as an inpatient
  • They are given evidence-based treatment and behavioral therapy
  • They are given medication in the alcohol detox stage
  • They are educated in a friendly way precisely how they are going to go about the process of recovery
  • They are given benchmarks for success in their recovery
  • They are encouraged by friendly, customer-oriented staff in the facility
  • They have strong motivation for recovery, and above all,
  • They receive a high degree of support from family, friends, and colleagues at work.


Alcohol Rehab Clinics are places where AA meetings can take place. In a rehab facility, the meetings are structured as support for the treatment of alcohol. Joining AA meetings is not treatment in itself.

There are many other forms of treatment for alcohol dependence. For instance, in a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Southern California,the following are offered:

  • Medication assisted treatment
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • One-on-one therapy
  • Relapse Prevention Therapy
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy
  • Neurofeedback Therapy
  • Self Management and Recovery Training
  • Non 12 Step Treatment
  • Transtheoretical Model or Stages of Change


In addition, some treatment facilities also provide Holistic Therapy which addresses the client not just as an alcohol addict, but a whole person: body, soul and mind. New research efforts have found that when holistic therapy is combined with medical help and support groups, clients tend to feel better about themselves.

Addiction rehab centres that offer Holistic Therapy sometimes make use of:


Like Alcoholics Anonymous, Holistic therapy is not a stand-alone remedy. It is no substitute for the full procedure done in inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehabilitation.

Bob Marley once said “If you don’t start somewhere, you’re gonna go nowhere”. Often, people who come to grips with the reality that they are addicted to alcohol want to start somewhere. They feel ashamed with their problem. Or they may be unclear about what the severity of their condition. They may even just feel stuck and uninspired with lives.

As luck would have it, they stumble upon a person who attends AA. A friend may suggest it, or they look it up on the internet. Whatever the means, they start getting curious about alcohol addiction recovery.They begin their journey with Alcoholics Anonymous.

What do they experience in AA?

AA describes itself as “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere”. Anybody who has a drinking problem can join. AA insists on maintaining the anonymity of their members believing that it helps take the stigma away. When the shame is downplayed, people are more likely to be truthful and healing can begin.

In AA there are closed meetings and open meetings. People who are not AA members, who are just curious about AA can attend open meetings. Some people do not like the faith component of AA. In the Service Material from the General Service Office of AA for instance, the word “God” is mentioned in the masculine form (“Him” or “He”).

Faith component aside, the real power of AA lies in its ability to create a supportive environment for someone struggling with alcohol addiction. Humans have a tendency to solve problems in the most simple, straight-forward way. We tend to follow what other people are doing, especially if we are around them all the time. In this manner, to remove a person from an environment where drinking is normal makes being sober feel normal.

AA has a system called “Sponsorship”. In this relationship, the sponsor is more experienced in the recovery process, while the sponsee is new to the experience. The sponsor is a source of assurance, kind words, and encouragement. The sponsor is also an accountability partner. For instance, there are times when the sponsee needs to attend a social function where alcohol will be served. The first person they ask to go with them would be the sponsor.

AA is represented by this symbol:

The organization sees Unity, Service and Recovery as the means to combat the three spheres of alcohol addiction, the physical, mental and spiritual. It insists that alcohol addiction is a disease that can be cured. This echoes the message people encounter when they decide to go to an alcohol rehab clinic. “You are sick, and you can be cured.”

In AA meetings, people are encouraged to share their experiences.  Usually, there is a designated speaker and topic. This session is followed by group discussion. These meetings can be construed as a warm-up of what is to come if a person decides to enter rehab.

At this point, it is better to start somewhere than to be nowhere at all in the process of change.

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