Court Ordered Treatment

Hi Stanton,

As a legal secretary for over ten years, I have seen the Courts “sentence” addicts/alcoholics to 12-step programs many times. Like a lot of people in my community, I have misgivings about these programs and their one-size-fits-all approach. I wonder if the courts might be moved to let defendants pick their treatment approach, if they could provide the court with an alternative…?



Dear Alice:

The important thing to know is that it is illegal for a court to sentence anyone to AA without offering them an alternative program.

All courts which have decided on this issue (including two federal appeals courts and the highest court in New York state) have ruled AA is a religious organization, and that the state (as represented by the courts) cannot force an individual to seek a higher power (one that clearly is derived from the Christian God) without violating the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. (All of this is described in my book with Charles Bufe and Archie Brodsky, Resisting 12-Step Coercion.)

It is worth bringing this to the attention of the authorities, perhaps by citing these cases. Of course, most people are not in a position to challenge the legality of a court order. So the best approach in most cases would be, as you suggest, for a person to develop an alternative program on their own, perhaps involving their own therapist, or a support group organized for some other purpose than strictly alcohol or drugs, or a non-AA substance abuse support group.

You may wish to consider our Life Process Program. We have a number of clients who have sought help following court mandated treatment.

Stanton Peele

For further articles relating to court ordered treatment, you may wish view the following links:

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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