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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 a direct counterpoint 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. Trimpey 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.


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.[1] This ambivalence is the Rational Recovery definition of addiction.

According to this paradigm, the primary force driving an addicts predicament is what Trimpey calls the "addictive voice", which can physiologically be understood as being related to the parts of the human brain that control our core survival functions such as hunger, sex, and bowel control. Consequently, when the desires of this "voice" are not satiated, the addict experiences anxiety, depression, restlessness, irritability, and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). 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. Most important to recovering addicts is the recognition of this addictive voice, and determination to remain abstinent by constantly reminding themselves of the rational basis of their decision to quit. As time progresses, the recovering addict begins to see the benefits of separating themselves and their rational minds from a bodily impulse that has no regard for responsibility, success, delayed gratification, or moral obligation.

While nomenclature differs, the methods are similar to those used in Cognitive Therapy of Substance Disorders (Beck, et al.) and other belief-, attitude- and appraisal-challenging and cognitive restructuring schemes.[2]

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.

In his book, Rational Recovery, Trimpey calls the addict's addictive voice "the Beast". He proposes that this is the sole reason why addicts continue their self destructive ways. Furthermore, by recognizing any feeling, image, urge, etc. that supports drinking/using as "Beast activity", the compulsions will fall silent, and the person can eventually regain control over their life and never worry about relapses. Although addiction is a life-long battle, it is much easier to say "no" to the addictive voice, than to give in. Moreover, this separation of the rational self from the relentless "Beast" will, Trimpey says, enable addicts to always remain aware of the repercussions associated with a single relapse.

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, Canada, Australia and the UK. These facilities base their programs on the success of Rational emotive behavior therapy,[3] Cognitive behavioral therapy,[4] Cognitive Appraisal Therapy,[5] and Schema Therapy[6] for anxiety and depression, as well as for substance abuse.

While RR and AA promote abstinence, the programs use radically different strategies. RR repeatedly makes it clear that there is no better time to construct a "big plan" to abstain from drinking/using than now, and that AA's idea of "one day at a time" is contradictory to never using again. Essentially, it proposes that if you are never going to drink again, then there isn't a reason to keep track of time.

  • 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 (although meetings were held throughout the country during the 1990s).
  • Great emphasis is placed on self-efficacy (cf. Albert Bandura).
  • There are no discrete steps and no consideration of religious matters.

Court-mandated twelve-step program attendance

In the United States, RR encouraged legal action[clarification needed] against mandated attendance of twelve-step programs, stating an objection to the courts and other government and tax-supported agencies mandating attendance at meetings run by 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.[7]Template:Primary source claim This view has been upheld in Griffin v. Coughlin,[8] Grandberg v. Ashland County, Warner v. Orange County Department of Probation, Kerr v. Lind, and O'Connor v. State of California.[citation needed] Recently, these cases have been challenged by Cutter and Wilkinson,Template:Clarifyme which finds no violation of the Establishment Clause.[9]

Critics[who?] have accused RR of being anti-religious. The RR FAQ states:

RR has voiced the conscientious objections of tens of thousands of persons who have received unwanted, unconstitutional, religious indoctrinations in the course of addiction treatment. To them and others, we provide a program that is free from religion. By advocating for their religious freedom, and identifying the 12-step program as a religion that competes with established religions, we have been accused by some of being irreligious, sacrilegious, or even anti-religious. Ain't so.[7]

RR claims to remain neutral on the subject of religion 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."[10][page needed]

RR claims that "AVRT has made recovery groups obsolete."[11] In 1998, RR announced, "The Recovery Group Movement is Over!...Beginning January 1, 1999, all addiction recovery group meetings for Rational Recovery in the United States, Canada, and abroad are hereby canceled and will not be rescheduled ever again, it's just a waste of time and is completely unproductive." Despite those remarks, there are still some groups in existence today, although the numbers are dwindling.[12]

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. The results of the impact on this type of recovery are too few to make an educational assumption"[13] 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


  1. See Beck, et al.
  2. See Garrett.
  3. See Albert Ellis, et al.
  4. See Aaron Beck, et al.
  5. See Richard Wessler, et al.
  6. See Jeffrey Young, et al.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "What is Rational Recovery?". Archived from the original on 2008-01-07. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  8. "Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y.2d 674 (June 11, 1996)". Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  10. Trimpey, Jack (1995). The Small Book: A Revolutionary Alternative for Overcoming Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Dell.
  11. Trimpey, Jack. "Rational Recovery". Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  12. Trimpey, Jack. "CANCELLED: The Recovery Group Movement is Over!". Archived from the original on 1998-12-06. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
  13. Galanter, Mark; Egelko, S; Edwards, H (1993). "Rational recovery: alternative to AA for addiction?". American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 19 (4): 499–510. doi:10.3109/00952999309001638. PMID 8273770.

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)
  • 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)

External links

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