The article in question looks at the Center for Motivation and Change, an anti-addiction program that favors secular counseling, therapy and medication. Well and good, as far as that goes.
But the article also notes how CMC shuns the 12-step method of Alcoholics Anonymous. No, more than that. It tries again and again to prove the superiority of the secular method, via biased wording, cherry-picking research and mainly quoting one side.
Again and again, CMC is held up as the enlightened, proven, “evidence-based” approach to kicking substance abuse:
It is part of a growing wing of addiction treatment that rejects the A.A. model of strict abstinence as the sole form of recovery for alcohol and drug users.
Instead, it uses a suite of techniques that provide a hands-on, practical approach to solving emotional and behavioral problems, rather than having abusers forever swear off the substance — a particularly difficult step for young people to take.
And unlike programs like Al-Anon, A.A.’s offshoot for family members, the C.M.C.’s approach does not advocate interventions or disengaging from someone who is drinking or using drugs. “The traditional language often sets parents up to feel they have to make extreme choices: Either force them into rehab or detach until they hit rock bottom,” said Carrie Wilkens, a psychologist who helped found the C.M.C. 10 years ago. “Science tells us those formulas don’t work very well.”
We’ll get to that question of how well the CMC works in a moment. For now, let’s note the code words of “strict” and “traditional,” as if AA and Al-Anon are based on some Amish settlement. Those and other forms of gaming raised the ire of our friend Jean Lahondere.
Underneath the psych talk and success anecdotes, Lahondere says, the Times article is a standard parable on the alleged triumph of science over faith.
The article “treats recovery as either a completely ‘faith-based’ (Alcoholics Anonymous) or ‘evidence-based’ (C.M.C.) ordeal,” she writes. “As if A.A. is a stand-in for religious belief and the new method is firmly rooted in the empirically correct foundation of SCIENCE. It really is more effective as an insight into the writer’s world view than as a story about addiction recovery.”
The Times does muster some scientific allies of CMC: