It is important for people that do not know about either addiction treatment or 12 Step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to understand the difference between the two. It is important to make the distinction between the two, because they are not the same thing.
Drug rehab, addiction treatment, substance abuse treatment take place at professional treatment facilities, often offering different levels of care in a residential or an outpatient setting. Treatment centres typically have some type of time limits associated with the treatment and they are paid services or services provided through loca or government funding (for those that cannot afford to pay). Treatment involves different modalities of therapy and can take place in different settings, such as individual therapy, group therapy and family therapy settings. Some addiction treatment centres incorporate the 12 Steps into a specific group or as an approach, but 12 Step groups in a drug rehab does not constitute taking the 12 Steps or being involved in a 12 Step program.
12 Step recovery programs like AA and NA are not really “programs” at all, but instead are fellowships of people meeting together with a common problem and a common solution. The actual program is the 12 Steps, meaning that someone can attend AA or NA meetings but if they are not actively taking the 12 Steps than they really are not in the AA or NA program but are instead just in the fellowship and attend meetings. 12 Step recovery programs are free, although they do pass a basket to take donations to be self-supporting as a group. Attendees at meetings can give if they so choose, but nothing is expected. There are no clinicians or therapists and no administrators. The purpose is simply for one addict or alcoholic to help another through their own personal experience of recovery. AA and NA have no established time limits and in fact hope that active involvement in both the fellowship and the program will be a lifelong endeavour.