Spirituality can play a big role in how people view themselves and the world around them, and many people draw strength from religion and the power of God and Christ to heal. Faith-based addiction treatment has evolved over the years.
Prior to addiction being publicly labeled as a disease in the 1940s, religious and spiritual leaders often characterized it as a moral defect or a sin. Christian-based treatment options were often based on removing a person’s “sinful nature” and restoring Christ into their life. In the 1800s, rescue missions sprung up to “save” people from addiction by imparting Christianity and Christian values into them in order to “cure” the affliction, as published in Christianity and the Treatment of Addiction. The Salvation Army opened homeless shelters in the late 19th century to serve people battling addiction by treating them with Christian doctrine as well providing them with food and a place to stay.
The first documented Christian-based treatment center to include clinical, psychological, and medical methods along with religion was the Emmanuel Church Clinic in Boston in 1906. Self-inventory and confessions were integral aspects of treatment at the Emmanuel clinic. This led to the formation of the Oxford Group, out of which came the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. While the basis of AA may be rooted in Christianity, the organization calls on members to rely on God as they personally perceive him to be, in whatever form that may take.
Christian-based addiction treatment programs have continued to evolve over the years. For example, Salvation Army Harbor Light Centers are now Christian-based addiction treatment facilities that are separated from shelters to provide focused substance abuse treatment. Today, typically Christian and faith-based addiction treatment centers focus on enhancing a person’s connection with a higher power while drawing from traditional and research-based methodologies. Christian-based addiction treatment programs support people in their faith while strengthening their connection to Christ for improved quality of life.
Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Programs
Most addiction treatment programs will include peer support and/or 12-Step programs as part of a complete treatment plan. These groups meet all over the world in churches, meeting halls, libraries, hospitals, and treatment facilities. There are many different types of support, self-help, and 12-Step groups.
AA is considered to be the pioneer of the 12-Step recovery movement, and is rooted in spirituality and turning oneself over to a higher power. This higher power does not have to be Christ or God, just a spiritual entity that is greater than oneself. These programs are often classified as faith-based due to the spiritual aspect and the numerous references to God and a higher power in the doctrine. By design, AA groups are technically considered to be agnostic, and Christian faith is not a requirement for membership or attendance. While specific mentions of Jesus Christ are not included in AA doctrine, Christians greatly benefit from the group and apply the spiritual aspects to their own religion and faith as they see fit.
AA and 12-Step programs place a high value on group fellowship, relinquishing control over to something or someone greater than oneself, and on having a spiritual awakening upon completion of working through the 12 Steps. The program asks members to make a personal inventory and to admit wrongdoings and weaknesses. AA and other similar 12-Step programs are highly spiritual in nature, and working through the steps may result in a stronger connection to God.
Both secular and Christian-based addiction programs are likely to include some form of a 12-Step or peer support group system. These programs provide a healthy network of peers that can continue to offer encouragement and support in recovery, thus helping to sustain abstinence and minimize relapse.
Individuals who regularly attend AA meetings are twice as likely to stay abstinent over those who do not engage in this program, the Journal of Addictive Disorders publishes. Active participation in a 12-Step program enhances recovery in both the short- and long-term.
Aspects and Benefits of Christian-Based Addiction Treatment
A faith-based addiction treatment program will take into consideration a person’s religious beliefs and work them into a care plan. Many Christian addiction treatment programs are community-based and may be provided in a variety of locations. Both outpatient and inpatient Christian-based addiction treatment programs are available.
As with traditional addiction treatment programs, faith-based programs will generally offer the following types of services:
- Detox and medical detox
- Medication management
- Group, family, and individual counseling and therapy sessions
- Relapse prevention programs
- Support groups
A Christian-based addiction treatment program will also likely include prayer, religious or Bible study, and spiritual guidance and support. Christianity holds that the group is vitally important. As addiction can cause isolation from family, peers, and the church, a Christian-based addiction treatment program will commonly work to strengthen these bonds and rely heavily on fellowship and methods of improving a person’s self-discipline in order to integrate them back into the faith and the spiritual collective.
The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment publishes that spiritually based activities, rituals, and beliefs are highly important in faith-based addiction treatment programs while traditional models may rely more heavily on preparing a person to re-enter the workforce. Both traditional and Christian-based addiction treatment programs place high value on providing a supportive and safe environment, social unity and mentoring, and group activities.
High levels of spirituality and religious faith in people who are in recovery can promote many different positive health benefits, the journal Alcohol Treatment Quarterly publishes. These include:
- Lowered anxiety
- Greater ability to manage stress
- Higher levels of optimism in life
- Positive coping skills
- Decreased substance abuse
Religious beliefs can strengthen a person’s motivation while offering forgiveness for past discretions and hope for the future. Individuals who have felt abandoned by God before entering into a treatment program may rekindle their spiritual connection, and people often report that relying on a spiritual focus is very helpful for recovery. In Christian-based recovery programs, clients learn that God is always present and a constant rock for people to lean on. Not everyone may embrace the Christian faith during addiction treatment, but spirituality, in whatever form, can be highly beneficial in improving a person’s overall quality of life even if they had no previous religious beliefs.
Most faith-based programs will advertise that this is their focus so people know ahead of time what they are signing up for. Christian-based addiction treatment may not be for everyone, as addiction, treatment, and recovery are highly personal experiences. Each family and individual should decide what form of treatment is right for them.
Priests, pastors, and other members of the clergy may be able to direct individuals to programs that are Christian-based if this is what they desire. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a behavioral health services locator that can help people to find specific treatment facilities, with options to search for treatment types and offerings. The National Association for Christian Recovery (NACR) can provide Christian-specific resources for addiction concerns, treatment options, and recovery support. Individual addiction treatment facilities can also provide information on the types of programs they offer and aid families and loved ones in finding a good fit.
- Alcohol Rehab
- Co-Occurring Disorders
- Holistic Recovery
- Luxury Rehab
- Rehab for Fire Service Members
- Treatment for Women
- Adolescent Programs
- Treating Seniors
- Helping Veterans with PTSD