Rational Recovery

Rational Recovery (RR) is a source of counseling, guidance, and direct instruction on self-recovery from addiction, alcohol and other drugs through planned, permanent abstinence designed as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Twelve step programs. RR was founded in 1986 by Jack Trimpey, a California licensed clinical social worker. Rational Recovery is a for-profit organization. Jack works in the field of treatment of alcoholism and other drug addictions. He admits to 25 years of "world class alcoholism", from which experience he developed his system of self recovery based on a process of gradually refusing to continue drinking.

The Rational Recovery program

The program is offered via the internet and through books, videos, and lectures. The Rational Recovery program is based on the premise that the addict both desires and is capable of permanent, planned abstinence. However, the RR program recognizes that, paradoxically, the addict also wants to continue using. This is because of his belief in the power of the substance to quell his anxiety; an anxiety which is itself partially substance-induced, as well as greatly enhanced, by the substance (see Beck et al). This ambivalence is the Rational Recovery definition of addiction.

In essence, the RR method is to first make a commitment to planned, permanent abstinence from the undesirable substance or behavior, and then equip oneself with the mental tools to stick to that commitment. While nomenclature differs, the methods are similar to those used in Beck et al's Cognitive Therapy of Substance Disorders (see Beck et al) and other belief-, attitude- and appraisal-challenging and cognitive restructuring schemes (see Garrett).

The RR program is based on recognizing and defeating what the program refers to as the "addictive voice" (internal thoughts that support self-intoxication) and dissociation from addictive impulses. The specific techniques of Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT) are concerned with demonstrating to the practitioner that the practitioner is in control of the addictive voice, not the other way around.

The notions that internal thoughts support self-intoxication and that the practitioner is in control of the addictive voice have become foundational in "evidence-based" treatment schemes at more progressive substance abuse treatment facilities in the US, Australia and the UK. These facilities base their programs on the success of Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy (see Albert Ellis et al), Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy (see Aaron Beck et al, Cognitive Appraisal Therapy (see Richard Wessler et al), and Schematherapy (see Jeffrey Young et al) for anxiety and depression, as well as for substance abuse.

While RR and AA promote abstinence, the programs use different strategies.

  • RR does not regard alcoholism as a disease, but rather a voluntary behavior.
  • RR discourages adoption of the forever "recovering" drunk persona.
  • There are no RR recovery groups.
  • Great emphasis is placed on self-efficacy (see Bandura).
  • There are no discrete steps and no consideration of religious matters.

RR and court mandated Twelve Step program attendance

In the United States, RR encouraged legal action against mandated attendance of Twelve Step programs, stating an objection to the courts and other government and tax supported agencies mandating attendance of organizations with spiritual or religious content. They interpret state-mandated Twelve Step program attendance as a violation of the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment. This view has been held up in Griffin v. Coughlin, Grandberg v. Ashland County, Warner v. Orange County Department of Probation, Kerr v. Lind, and O'Connor v. State of California. Recently, these cases have been challenged by Cutter and Wilkinson, which finds no violation of the Establishment Clause.

Critics have accused RR of being anti-religious. The RR FAQ states:

RR claims to remain neutral on the subject of religiosity and sobriety. RR founder Jack Trimpey explains, "...RR is not interested in having people give up any of their religious beliefs; it's just none of our business what people believe about gods and saints. The only exception here, of course, is when one is 'depending' on a rescuing deity in order to remain sober. If that is one's preference, then AA is an ideal program."

RR claims that "AVRT has made recovery groups obsolete." In 1998, RR announced, "The Recovery Group Movement is Over!...Beginning January 1, 1999, all addiction recovery group meetings (AA, NA, CA, SOS, WFS, ADASN [aka, SMART Recovery which spun off from RR and still offers groups], AAARG, MM, JACS, Al-Anon, AlaTeen, SLAA, etc.) in the United States and Canada are cancelled and will not be rescheduled."

In a 1993 research study lead by Mark Galanter, former president of both the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Association of Addiction Psychiatry, attempted to measure the impact of RR on members. The research found that "RR succeeded in engaging substance abusers and promoting abstinence among many of them while presenting a cognitive orientation that is different from the spiritual one of AA. Its utility in substance abuse treatment warrants further assessment." This research was conducted before RR disbanded their meetings in favor of self-recovery treatment. SMART Recovery split from RR just after this research and continues to offer these same groups.

See also


External links

Further reading

  • Bandura, A.: Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, San Francisco: W. H. Freeman (1997)
  • Beck, A.; Wright, F.; Newman, C.; Liese, B.: Cognitive Therapy of Substance Abuse; New York: The Guilford Press (1993)
  • Beck, A.: Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders; New York: Meridian (1976)
  • Ellis, A.; Harper, R.: A Guide to Rational Living; North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Book Company (1975)
  • Garrett, R.: Personality Disorders and 5-Stage Addiction Treatment (citing and discussing the work of Beck, Ellis, Wessler, Young and others relative to cognitive treatment of substance and process addictions) at (2008)
  • Trimpey, J. : Rational Recovery is an Effective Self-Help Program. In: Barbour, S. (Ed.). Alcohol. San Diego: Greenhaven, 1998. Pp. 135-143.
  • Trimpey, J.: The Small Book: A Revolutionary Alternative For Overcoming Drug and Alcohol Abuse, New York: Dell (1995)
  • Trimpey, J.: Rational Recovery: The New Cure for Substance Addiction, New York: Pocket (1996)
  • Wessler, R.; Hankin, S.; Stern, J.: Succeeding with Difficult Clients: Applications of Cognitive Appraisal Therapy, San Diego: Academic Press (2001)
  • Young, J.; Klosko, J.: Schematherapy: A Practitioner's Guide, London: Guilford Press (2006)

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