Faith-Based Programs in Addiction Centers: Philosophy & Application

Faith-Based Treatment Programs

Faith-based treatment programs are broadly defined as those that have implicit or explicit religious and/or spiritual content underlying program activities.1

Some surveys indicate that an increasing number of treatment professionals are becoming more comfortable with addressing the spirituality of their clients and tend to leverage its potential in treatment.2 A comprehensive survey of addiction treatment programs in the U.S. carried out in 2019 found that as many as 73% of them included a spirituality-based element.3

For people with strong spiritual or religious beliefs, faith can play a significant role in substance abuse treatment and recovery. However, it is important to note that a faith-based treatment does not necessarily have to be grounded in a particular religion or be provided only by religious organizations to their members.

The Philosophy Behind Faith-Based Treatment

Studies that explored the correlation of practicing a religion and the likelihood to abuse substances found a highly significant negative relationship between these two factors.4 It is a well-known fact that religions generally promote abstinence from substance abuse. However, there also seems to be an effect that the feeling of connection to a higher power has in preventing people from feeling alone and powerless in their problems, in which cases they often turn to substance abuse.

Working on the spiritual aspect of the personality often helps people find strength and purpose in overcoming addiction. Even when patients are detoxed using the traditional biomedical methods, there is still a “vacuum” left in their lives that needs to be addressed.5 In other words, for successful recovery, a person needs to be fulfilled and see a higher purpose in order to go on with their life and keep away from substance abuse.

Statistics seem to support this rationale. Despite some negative experiences with religion (for example, cases of abuse within some church organizations that actually led to substance abuse in victims), more than 84% of scientific studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention or recovery, while it seems to be a risk in less than 2% of the studies reviewed.6

what are faith-based treatment programs?

The Application of Faith-Based Programs in Addiction Centers

Faith-based treatment programs place a strong focus on the spiritual dimension of one’s life. Common activities in this type of treatment include:

  • Prayer.
  • Worship services.
  • Scripture readings and discussions.
  • A 12-step based curriculum.
  • Yoga.
  • Meditation.
  • Visualization.

How Do Faith-Based Treatment Programs Aid in Addiction Treatment?

Although there is a strong focus on spiritual development, traditional rehabilitation techniques still remain an important part of the treatment. Addiction treatment normally involves detoxification, which is usually medically assisted in order to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. It also includes behavioral therapy, like dialectical-behavior therapy, which aims to change the patterns that have led to addiction, or family therapy, which helps families mend their broken relationships

This means that faith-based programs approach the issue of addiction employing a full continuum of care, by helping the body, mind, and soul, rather than focusing only on the spiritual aspect and neglecting other aspects of addiction that need treatment.

What Kinds of Faith-Based Treatment Programs Are There?

The majority of faith-based treatments are designed for people who already have a religious belief. For instance, there are treatments for specific religious groups such as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and others.

On the other hand, there are also treatments that do not promote any religion in particular but spirituality in general.

There are also some faith-based treatment programs that combine secular and spiritual components by offering optional religious activities in addition to the regular ones. Such programs may be the right option for those who are starting to explore their spirituality.

As with any kind of addiction treatment, there are various in-patient treatment options and outpatient plans for overcoming substance abuse.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Both religious and non-religious people can benefit from faith-based treatment programs, provided that the treatment facility matches their needs as a patient.

  • There are several points to consider when choosing the right treatment program:
    • The faith-based treatment program should be in accordance with the religious and spiritual beliefs of the person who is struggling with addiction. In other words, the person should feel comfortable with the values and approaches that are practiced in a program. In case the person does not feel they belong to any specific religious denomination, there are also some secular-based programs that do not promote any particular religion.
    • In addition to the spiritual component, the program should provide other facilities that a person may need depending on their condition. These include medical support, recreational facilities, planned nutrition, family therapy, and so on.
    • The cost of the program and insurance coverage can play a significant role in decision-making. One needs to check with their insurance which treatments can be covered and which ones need to be paid for additionally.
    • The overall quality of care, success rates, and recommendations should also be taken into consideration when choosing a treatment center. Since the long-term goal of anyone who goes into treatment should be to maintain a healthy lifestyle and abstain from substances after the treatment itself, it is helpful to find a faith-based treatment solution that offers ongoing support.

1. Borman, P, Dixon, D. (1998). Spirituality and the 12 Steps of Substance Abuse Recovery. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 26(3), p. 287.

2. Bourgois, P., Hart, L. (2010). Science, Religion, and the Challenges of Substance Abuse Treatment. Subst Use Misuse. 45(14): 2395–2400.

3. Edlund, M. J., Harris, K. M., Koenig, H. G., Han, X., Sullivan, G., Mattox, R., & Tang, L. (2010). Religiosity and decreased risk of substance use disorders: is the effect mediated by social support or mental health.

4. Grim, B. J., & Grim, M. E. (2019). Belief, Behavior, and Belonging: How Faith is Indispensable in Preventing and Recovering from Substance Abuse. Journal of religion and health, 58(5), 1713–1750.

5. Neff, A. J., Shorkey, C. T., Windsor, L. C. (2006). Contrasting faith-based and traditional substance abuse treatment programs. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment (30), 50.

6. Pardini, D. A., Plante, T. G., Sherman, A., Stump, J. E., (2000). Religious faith and spirituality in substance abuse recovery: Determining the mental health benefits. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 19(4). 352.