I. The Basics of Faith-Based Rehabilitation

Faith-Based Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab houses addicts in a safe, dorm-like setting, removed from the triggers and stresses that cause them to drink or use drugs. The days are very structured and involve learning about the nature of addiction and giving patients the tools they need to be successful in recovery. Part of the therapy includes helping each patient rebuild their relationship with God, and many faith-based recoveries are based on Christianity. However, other rehabs are grounded in different faiths, such as Judaism or Islam.

Inpatient rehab is best for those with a moderate to severe addiction. The program begins with a medically supervised detox, and for those with an opiate or alcohol addiction, possibly medication to help ease the physical dependency on the substance. Once the physical dependence is gone, patients can begin rebuilding their minds and learning new ways to deal with underlying trauma and emotions.

Both group and individual therapies are part of the daily routine for inpatient rehab. You’ll also have several educational sessions, including Bible study and examining how your faith can help you sustain sobriety. If you’ve been struggling with your spirituality, finding a connection to your higher power and putting your faith in something bigger than yourself can give you strength when you’re tempted to drink or use.

Most inpatient programs last from 30 to 90 days, and afterward, most people are referred to outpatient treatment and encouraged to continue with individual therapy.

Faith-Based Outpatient Rehab

Some outpatient therapies are continuations of a faith-based inpatient program, while others take a spiritual approach to the 12 steps of addiction recovery. For intensive outpatient therapy, you’ll have several hours of counseling, including learning how scriptures can help you sustain recovery. As you progress through the treatment, the therapy sessions decrease. Many outpatient programs also have weekly or biweekly drug testing as a condition of remaining in the program.

Celebrate Recovery is one of the most popular faith-based outpatient programs, taking a Christian-based approach to the 12 steps popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous. Many Celebrate Recovery programs meet in churches, which may be helpful for those seeking a larger community. The program uses God as the higher power from the 12 steps and incorporates spirituality into completing the steps.

II. Steps of Rehabilitation

Completing the steps of inpatient and outpatient rehab varies depending on the type of rehab you undertake. Both start with an intake appointment with a counselor, discussing the nature of your addiction and allowing them to evaluate the severity of it. You may also have a physical evaluation to determine whether you need medical supervision to wean you from physical addiction. Some substances, such as alcohol and benzos, can be deadly to detox from without the proper supervision.

The treatment initiation can be a difficult time. You’re dealing with the physical symptoms of withdrawal, which can make you feel physically ill. The emotions that you’ve been masking with your substance of choice may feel overwhelming, and you may feel ambivalent about entering treatment. Many addiction counselors liken this to some of the stages of grief. It’s OK to mourn the loss of your drug of choice, but understand that these feelings will fade.

The next step in your faith-based rehabilitation process is early abstinence. You may still have physical cravings and experience feelings of depression or anxiety. Maintaining sobriety here is hard, as you’re learning how to navigate triggers, and you won’t have a lot of experience with making sober choices when you’re hurt, angry, bored, or tired. During this stage, your addiction counselor works with you to give you the tools you need to make good decisions. In a faith-based system, regular attendance at religious services may help you with a foundation of support.

Most inpatient rehabs transition clients out once they’ve completed the early abstinence phase, although you’ll need ongoing support to help you maintain abstinence.

The third phase of recovery is maintaining abstinence, which typically starts around 90 days of sobriety. If you’ve transitioned from inpatient to intensive outpatient recovery, this may be where your counseling sessions are reduced, although attending regular meetings and continuing to build your faith can help you not just stay sober, but have a more fulfilling, enriched life than you did when you were in active addiction.

Part of maintaining sobriety is understanding relapse prevention and how to recognize when you start thinking of using again. Many addicts don’t realize that relapse doesn’t happen when they pick up the drink or drug, but with the mental state of mind that leads up to them being in a position where they don’t resist temptation. As part of the treatment, you learn anger-management skills, possibly life skills like money management or job hunting, and how to use exercise and nutrition to keep you physically healthy and better able to resist temptation.

While most experts agree that addiction isn’t fully cured but rather in remission, as the weeks of sobriety turn into years, it becomes easier for many to live a sober lifestyle. Advanced recovery happens after several years of sobriety, and at this stage, you should have built a new lifestyle that doesn’t involve drinking or using drugs. Many addicts at this stage seek to pay it forward by mentoring newly sober addicts or leading recovery sessions.

III. Who Should Consider Faith-Based Recovery?

Faith-based recovery systems are best for those who seek to strengthen their spirituality or for those who are curious about exploring religion. Often, addiction can damage a person’s relationship with God or their higher power, which can cause feelings of guilt and sadness. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to deal with these feelings of separation can create a spiral into addiction.

If you’re struggling with broken faith, then entering a treatment that centers around building trust in a higher power can help motivate you through the rough parts of sobriety. In addition, the nature of many faith-based programs includes surrounding addicts with others in a similar position and creating a network of support.

Each person struggling with addiction has a different story, which may include struggles with mental illness, a trauma in their past, or simply poor life-coping skills. Recovery can be difficult, so it’s important to find a program that’s a good fit for your personality. Diagnosing substance abuse and creating an individualized treatment program is critical to the success of both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

Please Note: Our guide is intended to inform readers of the options for faith-based substance abuse recovery, not to advise a specific treatment for you. Your choice of addiction recovery should be made in concert with your primary care physician and a professional addiction counselor. The best course for success is to have help guiding you to a program that supports you and allows you to safely explore the reasons for substance abuse in your life.

IV. Additional Resources for Help

To learn more about how to choose the right rehab facility for you, check out our detailed guide.

Other valuable resources:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, types of treatment, and recovery. Sections of this site include tips on how to pay for rehab treatment and discussion about the link between mental health concerns and substance abuse.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse answers questions about successful recovery and provides statistics and illustrations that show the difference in your brain chemistry as you move from substance abuse to early recovery to maintaining sobriety.

V. FAQs About Faith-Based Rehab

I’m not religious. Can I still enter faith-based rehab?

Yes! Clients in treatments based on spirituality come from a variety of backgrounds, including agnostics, those who grew up in the church but fell away from their faith, and those who come from different organized religions. Most faith-based treatment centers meet patients where they are in their walk with a higher power. The only thing most programs require is that the client has a desire to build their relationship with God and seek sobriety.

How is PTSD addressed?

PTSD is addressed from both a clinical and a medical standpoint. Many treatment centers carefully evaluate each client to determine underlying stresses and any negative emotional and behavioral influences of traumatic events. Sometimes, patients may receive medication to alleviate certain PTSD symptoms, such as disruptive sleep, nightmares, and anxiety, as the patient works through sobriety.

Do faith-based programs really work?

Like all rehab treatments, most of the success depends on the individual’s willingness to be honest with themselves and uncomfortable while doing the hard work of achieving and maintaining sobriety. However, some studies indicate that many people find success with the support of faith-based rehab. World Religion News has compiled statistics to back this theory, and a focus-group study also supports the correlation between recovery and spirituality.

How does faith-based recovery work?

First, faith-based recovery often partners with a church, giving those in recovery a loving network of support. Second, many faith-based recovery programs are based in hope, with faith in a higher power and the purpose of redemption that many religions offer.

In addition to the loving support during the challenges of early sobriety, faith-based programs also have an accountability structure built-in, with check-ins to keep people honest about any drinking or drug use. Finally, the aspect of forgiveness is something that many addicts need, not only to forgive themselves and move forward but also to forgive anyone who caused them trouble or harm in the past. Often, letting go of negative feelings can help make the emotional work of staying sober easier.