How Spirituality Can Play a Role in Recovery


There are many arguments on the benefits of spirituality, particularly in recovery. Yet, sadly, spirituality tends to be something that some people fear or refuse to even entertain the idea of. However, if spirituality were simply a way of life – a series of attitudes and actions – that support well being, perhaps it would be more widely accepted.

The Spirituality of The 12 Step Program

In fact, you could say that the entire 12-step model is based on a relationship with a higher power. Although some have steered away from the religious component of the 12-step program, others would say that spirituality is the key to the whole program.

Despite the 12-step program, drug counselors, therapists, and addiction treatment teams have shied away from spirituality for many years. In fact, the entire field of mental health has kept spirituality out of its practices.

Nonetheless, little by little, practitioners are incorporating practices such as meditation and mindfulness into their work with clients. The success of mindfulness along with recent research on the benefits of meditation, particularly for the brain, has given spirituality a foothold in the world of therapy and recovery.

Certainly, some practices that have traditionally been considered spiritual have found their way into recovery and addiction treatment.  One of the primary reasons meditation is becoming more and more accepted is its ability to restructure the brain and provide an individual with the capacity to respond versus react.

Rather than reacting to stimuli, trigger, and uncomfortable feelings with drinking or drug use, meditation slowly provides a person with the ability to pause and think about their options. This perhaps is the greatest benefit of meditation.

In fact, meditation and other practices that are considered spiritual are becoming more and more popular because of their benefits. For instance, spiritually oriented recovery programs are growing in numbers, and many recovering addicts and clients are drawn to practices such as yoga and nutritional counseling.

Methods Included by Treatment Facilities

  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Deep Breathing
  • Acupuncture
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Reiki
  • Equine Therapy
  • Sweat Lodges
  • Adventure Therapy
  • Organic Food Choices
  • Physical Exercise
  • Sauna Use
  • Spiritual Exploration and Study

A recent study indicated that spirituality could help in recovery at rehabilitative centers. Although experts at The University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, and Baylor University performed the study, the research itself took place at a facility called New Directions in Northeast Ohio.

The results indicated that changes in spiritual experiences were correlated to better treatment outcomes, such as lower levels of drug occurrence, less self-centeredness, and higher frequency of positive social behavior. Furthermore, the daily spiritual experiences reported by the participants included feeling a divine presence, having a sense of inner peace, and a feeling of benevolence towards others.

Research has found that a rehabilitative environment that includes both spiritual and traditional experiences of recovery can facilitate in adults deeper insight into the choices they are making for their life and encourage connection with a core self.

Spirituality Can Be Optional in Recovery

Acupuncture | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comOf course, many can argue that spirituality does not play a pivotal role at all. And for this reason, there are many addiction treatment programs that have been developed, leaving the talk about “higher power” out of their treatment. Instead of spirituality, some are drawn to science, putting their faith in facts and figures.

There are those who keep their distance from spirituality throughout the many years they attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and they continue to work through the 12 AA steps regardless. Some have started the road to recovery years ago and have remained sober neither needed nor wanted the spiritual component.

Their disbelief in anything spiritual kept them far from it. Despite the research, for some, spirituality doesn’t make a difference in their recovery.

Certainly, including spirituality in one’s life is a personal choice. Some believe that including it is the key to long-term sobriety, while others have steered clear of it. You’ll have to discover for yourself whether spirituality will be woven into your recovery plan or not.


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