M: 07986 640840 E: mark.wood@transitions-rtc.org.uk

A Residential Therapeutic Community for 16-25 year olds with drug/alcohol problems and addictive behaviour.

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The relevance of spirituality and religion in health and addiction treatment and recovery.

An excerpt from MSc Dissertation “What Is The Role Of Religion/Spirituality For Youth In Treatment For Substance Misuse”, Mark J Wood, London South Bank University (2012). Used with permission. For a 5 page summary with relevance specifically to youth please click here.

In Europe and North America more than 80% of people profess faith in, allegiance to or identification with a major theistic world religion (Richards & Bergin, 1997).  Reliable statistics about spirituality in the UK are harder to track but according to surveys cited by British Religion in Numbers (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2011/psychics/) between 32-35% of the population described themselves as spiritual, and Hay (2002) references a survey which “showed that over 75% of the sample claimed that they were personally aware of a spiritual dimension to their experience” (p. 4).  The prevalence of initiatives such as Spiritual England (http://www.spiritualengland.org.uk/) further support this case.

The role of religion and spirituality has received increasing attention in the health literature (Flannelly, Galek, Bucchino, & Vane, 2006) and a significant volume of work has been produced on their influence on health and wellbeing (e.g. Religion and Belief Matter: An Information Resource for Healthcare Staff www.scottishinterfaithcouncil.org/ resources/ Religion+and+ Belief.pdf).  There is also a growing interest in engagement with the religious/spiritual aspects of client’s lives so as to improve therapy (Coyle & Lochner, 2011).

More specifically numerous studies have examined the association of these dimensions with drug and alcohol addiction (e.g. Geppert et al., 2007), and established their beneficial effects in prevention, treatment and recovery (Miller, 1998; Miller & Thoresen, 1999; Pardinia, Plante, Sherman & Stump, 2000).  In fact Piedmont (2001) observes:

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of the value of spirituality in the area of rehabilitation concerns treatment for chemical dependency (e.g., Borman & Dixon, 1998; Green, Fullilove, & Fullilove, 1998; Warfield & Goldstein, 1996), where this construct is seen as the central curative factor in recovery (p. 4).

On the whole the positive effect of religion/spirituality in the lives of people with drug and alcohol problems receives wide-ranging endorsement, which is not entirely surprising since many people rate ‘spiritual strivings’ as being paramount (Emmons, 1999), and Emmons, Cheung & Tehrani (1998) evidenced a more robust relationship with subjective well-being, with a greater effect, than any other category of striving studied.


Coyle, A., & Lochner, J. (2011). Religion, spirituality and therapeutic practice. The Psychologist, 24(4), 264-266.

Emmons, R. A. (1999). The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns: Motivation and Spirituality in Personality. New York: The Guildford Press.

Emmons, R.A., Cheung, C., & Tehrani, K. (1998). Assessing spirituality through personal goals: Implications for research on religion and subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 45, 391-422.

Flannelly, K. J., Galek, K., Bucchino, J., & Vane, A. (2006). The relative prevalence of various spiritual needs. Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy, 9(2), 25-30.

Geppert, C., Bogenschutz, M. P., & Miller, W. R. (2007). Development of a bibliography on religion, spirituality and addictions. Drug and Alcohol Review, 26, 389-395.

Hay, D. (2002) The spirituality of adults in britain – recent research. Scottish Journal of Healthcare Chaplaincy, 5(1), 4-9.

Miller, W. R. (1998). Researching the spiritual dimensions of alcohol and other drug problems. Addiction, 93 (7), 979-990.

Miller, W. R., & Thoresen, C. E. (1999). Spirituality and Health. In W. R. Miller (Ed.), Integrating spirituality into Treatment (pp. 179-198). New York: American Psychological Association.

Pardinia, D.A., Plante, T.G., Sherman, A., and Stump, J.E. (2000). Religious faith and spirituality in substance abuse recovery: Determining the mental health benefits. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 19, 347-354.

Piedmont, R. L. (2001). Spiritual Transcendence and the Scientific Study of Spirituality. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 67(1), 4-14.

Richards, P. S., & Bergin, A. E. (1997). A Spiritual Strategy for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

British Religion in Numbers. Psychics [Online]. Available at http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2011/psychics/ (accessed on 26th May 2012).

Religion and Belief Matter: An Information Resource for Healthcare Staff [Online]. Available at www.scottishinterfaithcouncil.org/resources/Religion+and+Belief.pdf

(accessed on 25th May 2012).