The Impact of Christian Addiction Counseling on Recovery

Amanda Stevens

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Faith-based counseling involves integrating a patient’s Christian faith into the recovery process.

While some would argue it’s just a matter of semantics, Christian counselors synthesize and recontextualize both the vocabulary and practice of addiction care into familiar theological language rather than detached biopsychosocial language.

Existing research suggests that Christian addiction counseling is at least as effective as its secular counterpart.[1]

The Difference Between Christian Addiction Counseling vs. Secular Addiction Counseling

Secular addiction counseling systems generally have two governing concepts:

  1. Addiction is a disease that is the result of a complex interplay of hereditary, environmental, and social pressures.
  2. Recovery is a process which must be pursued through appropriate psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

Christian addiction counseling systems also generally have a two governing concepts[2]:

  1. Addiction results from attempting to fill a spiritual void through substance use
  2. Recovery can be achieved principally through salvation and a long-term relationship with God but also experientially through psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

Either system requires belief in it for it to work. Whether a sufferer of addiction is secular or Christian, they must believe in the possibility of success and make incremental daily progress towards the counseling goals they have chosen to adhere to.

A secular sufferer will not be successful if they do not believe in the governing concepts of secular therapy, nor will a Christian sufferer be successful if they do not believe in the governing concepts of Christian addiction counseling.

A secular sufferer must trust in the secular addiction counseling process, just as a Christian sufferer must trust in the Christian addiction counseling process, such as what the Bible says about addiction.

Benefits of Christian Addiction Counseling

Emerging research suggests that the models of Christian addiction counseling are equally effective as their secular social work counterparts.[3] Substantial similarities were shown between the core social processes of treatment compared with secular substance abuse treatment programs.[4]

In particular, faith-based clients reported greater satisfaction in having a strong role model assisting in the recovery process.[5] In Christian addiction counseling, the relationship between the therapist and the client is primary.

Since Christian theology posits a creational need for a relationship, the therapist works to establish a connection with the client in which they can safely express their authentic selves without fear of reproach, judgment, ridicule, or dismissal. The fear of dismissal is a statistically significant barrier to faith-based clients’ success in secular therapy and why they may be more successful when they do not fear being judged.

Former Christian clients have reported dissatisfaction in cases where their secular therapists expressed opposing philosophies or simply avoided discussing spiritual issues.[6]

Goals of Christian Addiction Counseling

The goals of Christian addiction counseling are to integrate the client’s faith into their recovery journey to give them the best possible chance of success.

Establishing the therapist as a strong role model is key for Christian addiction counseling. Since one of the governing concepts of Christian therapy is that substance use derives from the existence of a spiritual void in the sufferer’s life, the therapist will seek to fill that void with some of what is missing, namely, relationship and authenticity.[7]

As the void is filled, the Christian counselor will also implement other evidence-based practices, such as traditional psychotherapy. Once the relationship has been established, the thought patterns and behaviors can begin to change.

What Does a Christian Counselor Do?

A Christian counselor will offer a relationship to the client in which they can also simultaneously express their authentic selves.

Christian theology contends that we are born with a need for a connection to God and a need to be who we were created to be. Adam and Eve enjoyed this special kind of relationship with God, where they could walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.

But, once sin enters the picture, we all learn early on that not everyone cares for our authentic selves. So, we learn to ignore, deflect, or substitute our authentic selves to preserve connection with others, or we break our connection with others to preserve our authentic selves.

As a strong role model, a Christian counselor models the vulnerable disclosure God wants to have with us.[8] They accept the client as their lonely, authentic self before they go about trying to change thought patterns or behavior.

Getting Faith-Based Treatment

If you are serious about getting Christian addiction counseling, Recovery Unplugged is here to meet your needs. They have a virtual faith-based therapy option.

They employ licensed, credentialed therapists who assist during a 6 to 10-week virtual treatment program. The sessions include Scripture recitation, group exercises, individual exercises, engagement with Christian music, and more.

Using the Bible, they want to connect the principles, stories, and characters to your experiences. In doing so, they hope to empower you to strengthen your connection to God and achieve lasting sobriety.

Frequently Asked Questions About Christian Addiction Counseling

What role does faith play in overcoming addiction?

The presence of faith, or absence of it, determines the way you relate to yourself, others, and the world. If you believe that “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil 2:13 New International Version), then you will put your confidence not in your power to overcome addiction but in the eternal promises of God.

This can be especially powerful if you’ve experienced relapses or slow progress during your recovery. Trusting in your power limits you to your own experiences and exercise of self-willpower. Trusting in God connects you to a source of unlimited power who promises to give you the power to do what pleases him.

If you can find a community of sober, faithful people who share this belief, they can provide emotional and practical support during your recovery. The power of an embodied community to enhance positive recovery outcomes cannot be overstated.

Does Christian addiction counseling take my insurance?

Some insurance companies accept billing from Christian providers, while others do not. Insurance companies require a mental health code to be affixed to the bill to get reimbursement. Some Christian counselors do not provide this.

However, we provide this service. Consequently, at Recovery Unplugged, we accept most of the larger insurance providers to pay for faith-based therapy. Some of these providers include Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Optum, Humana, and more.

Do I have to be Christian to get Christian addiction counseling?

No, you absolutely do NOT have to be a Christian to get Christian addiction counseling. But, if you aren’t a Christian, for it to be an effective treatment, you must believe it has the potential to yield positive results and trust in the process of a counseling process with Christian governing concepts.

A Christian counselor will use theological language and religious imagery often. They will also frequently use the Bible to draw comparisons or to explain, so make sure you believe the Bible to be an effective tool to help aid in your recovery.


[1][3] Neff, J. A., & MacMaster, S. A. (n.d.). Spiritual mechanisms underlying substance abuse behavior change in Faith-Based Substance Abuse Treatment. Taylor and Francis Online.

[2[7] McCoy, L., Frayne, S., Bokhour, B., & Hermos, J. (n.d.). Conceptual bases of Christian, faith-based Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Programs: Qualitative analysis of staff interviews. Substance abuse.

[4] Neff, J. A., Shorkey, C. T., & Windsor, L. C. (2005, December 27). Contrasting faith-based and traditional substance abuse treatment programs. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

[5][8] Cook, L., Humphreys, B., & Stallard, J. (n.d.). The effects of faith-based therapy versus secular therapy. Cedarville University School of Nursing.

[6] Cragun, C. L., & Friedlander, M. L. (n.d.). Experiences of Christian clients in secular psychotherapy: A mixed-methods investigation. Journal of counseling psychology.

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is a highly respected figure in the field of medical content writing, with a specific focus on eating.

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