What Is Rational Recovery?

Rational Recovery (R.R.) is an abstinence-based addiction recovery program, developed as an alternative to the spiritually centered 12-step model. Rational Recovery Systems, Inc., was founded in 1986 by Jack Trimpey, a recovered alcoholic and licensed clinical social worker based in California. Trimpey’s program centers on a trademarked method called Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), which teaches users to recognize the “addictive voice” that prompts them to seek drugs or alcohol.

Addiction is seen as the result of our ambivalence between wanting to be sober and wanting to listen to the addictive voice (A.V.), which tells us drugs and alcohol are the solution to our problems. AVRT works by promoting objective awareness of thoughts and triggers that cause cravings. By dissociating from our A.V., the theory holds, we can rationally choose to override our addictive impulses and remain abstinent.

Thus, while the A.V. – described by Trimpey as “the Beast” – constantly tries to undermine our free will , called the “I,” sobriety is seen purely as an act of self-control. R.R. therefore rejects the idea that we’re “powerless” over our addiction, which is the primary concept of 12-step groups modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous.

In addition, R.R. does not view addiction as a disease , as 12-step programs and the medical community do; instead, R.R. considers addiction to be a voluntary behavior. R.R. contends that by employing AVRT, recovery is very quickly accomplished, rather than a lifelong process. R.R. is free of any spiritual component, and bills itself as religiously neutral. For this reason, it is often favored as a recovery program by atheists and others who question or reject the concept of a “higher power.”

There are no meetings to attend in R.R. The program’s literature, as well as “crash courses” on AVRT, videos, and subscription forums, are all available online, typically for a fee. “There is no good reason anyone must pay money in order to permanently discontinue the use of alcohol and other drugs,” according to the R.R. website, rational.org. “On the other hand, there is nothing about addiction that suggests eligibility for charity or tax subsidized services and materials.”

Data on the effectiveness of Rational Recovery and other “secular” programs, and comparisons with the success rates of 12-step programs, appear to be inconclusive. Arguably, the best hope for addiction recovery is a combination of approaches that also includes behavioral therapy and a treatment program.

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