Addiction Counseling

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.



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Local Christian Support Groups and Faith-Based Therapy

If you live in the US cities of Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, and Virginia, here are a few ways to find Christian rehab centers:

Faith-Based Recovery

If you are serious about integrating faith into your recovery journey, consider our faith-based therapy program at Recovery Unplugged.

We offer licensed therapists who can assist you in a 6 to 10-week treatment course that provides structure, accountability, and empowerment to help you draw your recovery strength from God.

Sessions could include Scripture recitation, prayer, group exercises, individual exercises, and engagement with spiritual music. We want to connect the principles, stories, and characters of the Bible to your lived experiences for extra encouragement during demanding stretches of your recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions about Christian Rehab Centers

About the Contributor

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens is a highly respected figure in the field of medical content writing, with a specific focus on eating disorders and addiction treatment. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Science...

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[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.