Can Spirituality Be Separated from Addiction Recovery?

What do we mean by spiritual recovery?

The concept of spirituality in the problem of substance abuse addiction can be traced back to the 1930s when Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous, based on the premise that alcoholism is an attempt to fill one’s thirst for God. Today, spirituality-based interventions are grounded on the notion that we humans exist in body, mind, and spirit, and in order to truly help someone successfully recover from drug and alcohol addiction, treatment providers need to take into account all aspects of recovery. As defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery is “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential,” and this would include spirituality, which plays a large role depending on the cultural context. Defining the role of spirituality and religion in addiction recovery is more about finding one’s purpose in life and maintaining a sense of hope rather than restricting the meaning to one particular definition.

Examining the meaning of recovery as defined by various cultures

According to research, recovery carries a different meaning across cultures and communities. Among Native Americans, entire families are involved, and community organizations such as the White Bison are an important part of a person’s recovery, whereas European Americans place an individual emphasis on recovery from addiction. Religion and spirituality have been a large part of the African-American culture, and those who included faith and spirituality as part of their recovery have benefited from positive mental health outcomes. Some community groups such as LifeRing Secular Recovery and SMART Recovery hold strictly secular world views on recovery whereas groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step fellowships may be considered spiritual but not necessarily religious. Regardless of varying definitions among diverse cultures, the common denominator points to a personal change within the individual beyond just the cessation of substance abuse.

Is recovery possible without addressing spirituality?

Addressing spirituality is part of cultural competence, as it brings to light some of the values that the clinician and client may or may not have in common. Although it may be an uncomfortable topic for either party, one cannot dismiss the influence of one’s personal values on recovery, and spirituality should be considered as part of an individual’s treatment program if the clinician believes it to be an important part of recovery based on the client’s world views. In acknowledging the client’s preferences, clinicians avoid allowing conflicting personal values to guide their professional practice. According to a wellness report by SAMHSA, those who value religion and spirituality inform their treatment providers about their spiritual beliefs and would like this information to be incorporated into their treatment planning. This could be difficult for addictions counselors if they have not yet worked through their own faith and value systems in the broader context of spiritual diversity.

Spiritual practices in substance abuse treatment

In addiction treatment, meditation and yoga are two examples of spiritual practices in holistic therapy that have a profoundly positive impact on addiction treatment outcomes. In a case study examining 168 adults with substance use disorders, the use of mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) in conjunction with cognitive-behavioral therapy showed a significantly lower rate of substance use at a two-month follow-up. Holistic therapy is not limited to yoga and meditation; it also includes wolf-assisted therapy, equine therapy, surf therapy, and other types of non-traditional, evidence-based practices that have been proven effective in place of traditional talk therapy.

The best of both worlds: substance abuse treatment and holistic therapy

New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis treatment center in San Juan Capistrano, CA, uses evidence-based practices such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, holistic therapy, and aftercare to provide excellent support for their clients during and after their treatment programs. All treatment plans are tailored to meet the needs of each individual, and clients are introduced to various community-based recovery programs, which may include 12-step fellowship programs, non-12 step programs, or a community group that suits the client’s spiritual or religious preferences.

For more information about our holistic therapy programs, please call 866.951.1824

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