Should You Try a Faith-based Rehab?

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In the United States, faith continues to play a very important role in the life of many people. According to a 2019 survey by Pew Research, a handy majority of Americans consider themselves to have faith, with about 74% considering themselves to have a religion. This number is much lower in the Boston Metropolitan Area, a place that only half a century ago was considered a bastion of conservative religion.

However, someone looking at Boston’s rehab centers might not immediately see this secular streak. As with most other places in America, faith-based rehabs comprise a large proportion of the available drug rehab facilities in Boston. Even in secular programs, faith still asserts itself in the philosophical approaches and attitudes commonly encountered.

So is faith-based rehab something you should be interested in? Let’s explore some of the things you should know about faith-based programs.

What are faith-based approaches?

Faith-based approaches to rehab invoke God or some other Higher Power as part and parcel of the treatment. This may include direct invocation as in the case of the popular 12 Steps approach promoted by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. However, they may arguably also include such practices as daily prayers or religious meditative practices.

In the past few decades, faith-based approaches have largely been contrasted with evidence-based treatment (EBT). However, these are not necessarily opposed to each other and many faith-based rehab programs will also employ EBT as the main treatment approach.

Are faith-based rehabs effective?

It’s very difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons of different rehabs. Evidence goes both ways as to the effectiveness of faith-based approaches for substance use disorder (SUD). Some studies suggest that they are more effective than purely secular programs while others show the contrary. Some studies show that these approaches are only effective if the person being treated already believes in the program’s ideology.

Needless to say, that complicates recommendations for any faith-based program. What is apparent is that different programs will work more or less better for different recovering individuals.

Given that most Americans do believe in some kind of a higher power, it’s likely that many with SUD will benefit from a faith-based rehab. In areas like Boston where there are relatively more nonreligious people, this may be somewhat less true, though perhaps not enough to write off faith-based programs completely.

What can I expect in a faith-based program?

It can be difficult to make sweeping statements, as not all faith-based programs are alike. Even if they all incorporate some element of spirituality or faith, they may be ideologically dissimilar. It’s also important to note that rehabs supported by churches or religious foundations may also be secular or less overtly religious on purpose

However, all faith-based rehabs naturally have a spiritual or religious aspect. Participants at faith-based programs can expect some or all the following:

  • Spiritual guidance by a pastor/priest/rabbi/imam etc.
  • Religious meditation or mindfulness practices adapted for a certain faith
  • Religious services
  • Readings from the Bible or other religious texts
  • Daily prayers

Faith-based rehabs are also likely to include some kind of EBTs in varying degrees. Some may also include:

  • Withdrawal management/detox
  • Drug replacement therapy/medication-assisted therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Professional or life-skills training
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling

Some faith-based programs will not accept certain types of individuals or offer some kinds of EBT, due to their specific ideological leanings. For instance, motivational interviewing is not widely used in mainstream faith-based rehabs due to a perceived incompatibility with their approach. Some faith-based programs also advocate for total abstinence, which means that many do not support opioid replacement therapy or may refuse patients who are currently undergoing it.

These situations are not universal — many faith-based rehabs may be happy to take anyone in. Contact our team at Boston Drug Treatment Centers to find the right faith-based rehabs in your area.

Should I choose a faith-based rehab?

If you believe in the type of religious ideology promoted by a rehab program, you can stand to benefit from enrolling in that specific one. If you’re not religious or if the program in question is not in line with the kind of religious beliefs you have, then maybe faith-based rehabs are not for you. Generally speaking, outcomes are best when people can join rehab programs that align with their beliefs. Regardless, it’s best if you can choose programs that primarily use EBT.

If you’re not sure which rehab program to pick, your physician should be able to help narrow down your choices. If you think that you might have a substance use disorder, please seek professional help immediately.