Christian Substance Abuse Treatment | 12-Step Programs & Faith-Based Rehab

All About Christian Drug & Alcohol Rehab Programs

Faith and 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. Christian addiction treatment has evolved over the years.

An Overview of Christian Substance Abuse Treatment

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 as 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, Christian addiction treatment centers typically 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.

Christian substance abuse & drug addiction treatment programs

Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step Programs

Christian addiction treatment typically includes 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.

The Role of Faith in AA Programs

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 having a spiritual awakening upon completion of working through the 12 steps. The program asks members to make a personal inventory and 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 Christian-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 addiction treatment programs are available for those looking for Christian-based rehab.

As with traditional addiction treatment programs, spirituality and Christian-based programs will generally offer the following types of services:

  • Support groups
  • Medication management
  • Detox and medical detox
  • Relapse prevention programs
  • Group, family, and individual counseling and therapy sessions

The Importance of the Group

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. It also relies 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 Christian-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.

The Positive Effects of Christian Substance Abuse Treatment

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
  • Positive coping skills
  • Decreased substance abuse
  • Higher levels of optimism in life
  • Greater ability to manage stress

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 substance abuse 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 Christian-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. In addition, the members of the LGBTQ+ community may benefit from a more secular treatment, although this does not have to be the case. 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.

Spirituality & Christian Addiction Treatment

Some individuals recovering from drug addiction remain firm in their faith, others may need guidance to explore religion and spirituality further, while some have lost touch with faith altogether. What they all have in common is the need for compassion and understanding throughout the process.

Addiction is a disease. It leaves a void of emptiness in one’s soul and makes a person feel shame, guilt, and embarrassment. This makes the struggle with addiction all the more difficult. It is therefore important for a recovering user to fill the void in a meaningful way, by reconnecting with their spirituality or faith. Love and acceptance found through faith can help an individual transform their life, put the broken pieces back together, and reconnect to their higher power.

Christian addiction treatment programs are based on a holistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and soul. Because religious views may differ and spirituality can have different manifestations and interpretations, the approach can be based on spirituality or religion, as some individuals may not wish to incorporate faith as such into their treatment.

The following elements are typically included in the curriculum:

  • 12-step based programs
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Reiki

Christian Addiction Treatment: A Specialized Program for Long-Term Recovery

Overcoming a drug addiction is an immensely challenging feat, but it is not impossible, and faith or spirituality can be instrumental in making the journey easier.

The first thing we strive to convey is this: although persons struggling with addiction sometimes do feel that their relationship with the Creator has been damaged beyond repair, addiction does not define one’s personality and relapsing does not reflect a lack of faith, insincerity, or moral failure.

A faith-based addiction curriculum is designed to help persons who are devoted to faith and spirituality overcome their substance abuse addiction. It allows them to cope with their feelings of shame and guilt and find the understanding and support they need.

Faith and spirituality can help create a pathway to rebuilding a strong relationship with God and with oneself, and by incorporating faith into addiction treatment, individuals can find and rediscover a sense of purpose they need for long-term recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Spirituality and religion may not be the same, but their focus is: nurturing the soul. Individuals struggling with addiction take time to rebuild a sense of purpose, belonging, self-worth, and connectedness, as these are among the deepest human social and esteem needs. If these needs are not satisfied, a person will lack fulfillment and may relapse and go back to drugs to make up for what’s missing.This is why incorporating spirituality or faith-based aspects into addiction treatment is of pivotal importance. Spiritual or Christian addiction treatment can help a person discover their purpose and meet their needs in a healthy way.

  • Faith can be a powerful driving force behind recovery, which is why our version of 12 steps relies heavily on Christian principles. Namely, the Christian addiction treatment program is founded on Bible-based principles. It also incorporates the standard principles used in addiction recovery, with emphasis on the clearly outlined 12 steps.1The 12-step program will be blended with the faith-based principles of the Christian Program and the topics for the counseling sessions will be chosen accordingly. The purpose is to guide patients to Christian and moral values.However, the strength of one’s beliefs does not reflect how effective the Christian drug rehab program will be for an individual. Recovery from addiction should be a meaningful pathway to reconciliation and rebuilding a deeper, stronger, and more fulfilling relationship with the Creator. It should be guided by Christian values and faith and open to anyone who is committed to pursuing lasting recovery with commitment to Christian values.2

Individual, group, and family counseling options are all part of the program. A Christian program also includes worship service available on-site every Sunday. Treatment specialists may design a personalized aftercare plan as part of the drug treatment program. The purpose of the aftercare plan is to enable the patient to continue to pursue the goals set by a Christian drug addiction treatment program. Medical, nursing, psychiatric, and nutritional services may also be incorporated into the approach to recovery.

The program relies on four key therapeutic concepts:

  • Acceptance commitment therapy: ACT helps a person rediscover and restore their core values based on Christian principles and create a sound action plan based on these values.
  • Narrative therapy: This option helps patients envision their new, addiction-free future by focusing on their future actions and reinforcing their commitment to a healthier way of life. The idea behind narrative therapy is based on the Christian concept of loving the sinner and not the sin. It focuses on solving the problem and helping the person overcome it by helping them reshape their life’s vision.
  • Positive psychology: Gratitude is a crucial aspect of Christianity. The focus is on positivity and the goal of positive psychology is the same. The idea is to ensure patients focus on the positive and find happiness, fulfillment, and betterment through expressing gratitude and thanksgiving and taking kind and thoughtful actions toward others.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: The goal of CBT is to guide patients to rational thinking and enhance their emotional well-being so as to enhance their behavior and guide them to take actions that are in tune with faith-based values.

  • To come to terms with the addiction, overcome it, and get well, individuals need effective addiction treatment based on a comprehensive, holistic approach that addresses the mind, body, and soul. These three aspects or components of recovery are treated throughout the treatment, but in different ways:
    • The physical aspect or treatment of the body is the focus of the detoxification stage, which is facilitated by specialized clinicians and therapists.
    • As for the recovering individual’s mental health and treatment of the mind, we rely on one-on-one and group counseling and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The counselor may recommend a specialized treatment program most likely to lead to long-term mental health recovery based on the individual’s addiction and addiction treatment history.3
    • When it comes to the soul aspect, that is where religion and spirituality come in. Ordained ministers with expertise and experience in addiction and addiction recovery are behind this aspect of the program.

  • Spirituality and religion-based treatment values can play a pivotal role in the process of recovery from substance abuse. This integrated approach of overcoming addiction as a disease is effective because the principles of recovery and beliefs are incorporated into the core of the program.Christian addiction treatment programs are evidence-based, yet blended with Christian principles and values. It is designed to help individuals struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs reach meaningful recovery. Whether they are already strong in their faith or need a helping hand to guide them and help them find their way back to faith, this goal is to help individuals recover and make peace with themselves.While the road to recovery is not an easy road to take, spirituality and religion can make it easier. The results are even better with the help of compassionate, understanding addiction recovery specialists ready to provide support and guidance every step of the way.

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1. Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing. (1952). The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

2. Pittman, J., & Taylor, S.W. (2002). Christianity and the Treatment of Addiction: An Ecological Approach for Social Workers, Chapter 11.

3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020).TIP 42: Substance Use Treatment for Persons With Co-Occurring Disorders.