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Non-Religious Rehab Programs

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You might notice a theme of religious-based addiction therapy when researching rehab treatment options, and an overlap between mental health treatment and religion-based practices. For many mental health practices, religion is an integral component, due in part to their foundations with each other.1 Religion and mental health were often seen and discussed together, and only recently have they become more separated into two very distinct fields.1 For many, religion can have positive mental health benefits by creating guidelines, ritual, and community.2 Spirituality can benefit mental health by increasing individuality, encouraging mindfulness, and helping develop unity with one’s surroundings.2

For others, spirituality is not a focus in their life. It is helpful to understand the difference between religious, spiritual, and non-religious rehab programs to help you decide which option is best for you and your long-term recovery. Several non-faith-based therapy and non-12-step rehab options are becoming more widely available, helping to provide a more inclusive environment for atheist, agnostic, secular, and non-religious identifying communities.

What Are Non-Religious Rehab Programs?

Effective addiction treatment can be implemented both with or without the presence of a religious foundation.3 Evidenced-based behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM) have defined principles for effective treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs).3 For instance, CBT emphasizes the recognition of problematic behaviors and situations, then utilizes coping skills to stop negative behavioral patterns.3 In a similar fashion, CM involves positive reinforcement by rewarding behaviors like abstinence.3 These types of treatments are frequently used due to research that supports their effectiveness.3 In addition to behavioral therapy, medication management is common and can be an important part of rehabilitation.3

For many people, being part of a community that is religiously based can encourage social support, lower suicide rates, and increase overall life satisfaction.2 These spiritual or religious values can support and boost addiction recovery methods.4 Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), although limited in research, also has proven effective, especially in social, cognitive, and affective aspects.4 AA believes that through the 12-step program, a spiritual awakening is achieved and addiction can be broken.4 In the traditional 12-step program, there are principles surrounding God or a higher power.4 Although the term “God” is used in AA, you are encouraged to define what this means for you.4 For participants open to spirituality, AA allows autonomy in spiritual beliefs.

Alternatives to AA and 12-Step Recovery Groups

As an alternative to the traditional 12-step faith-based program, a few secular or non-religious support groups are becoming more widely available.There are numerous support groups that can help increase abstinence motivation.By maintaining different support group options, people who might be deterred from a traditional 12-step model, those who begin AA but discontinue, or individuals who desire a non-12-step recovery can continue to enjoy a supportive environment.The three groups defined below emphasize self-empowerment over faith in a higher power.5

  • SMART Recovery: Standing for Self-Management and Recovery Training, SMART was created for people to shift from addictive behaviors toward a healthy and positive self-regard.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery: LifeRing is a network of members and encourages participants to make their own recovery decisions. There is a focus on strengthening the sober self and weakening the addict self.
  • Women for Sobriety: A support group made for women, by women. This group emphasizes recovery through the discovery of self.

What Are the Benefits of a Non-Religious Alcohol and Drug Rehab Program?

group therapyTreatment will be different for everyone and depends on your unique needs.3 Beginning treatment for a substance use disorder is the first step toward a successful recovery.3 Regardless of your religious preference, participating in rehab for a SUD can have benefits that extend beyond your time in treatment. Benefits can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Opportunity to modify attitudes toward drug or alcohol addiction.6
  • Increased accountability.3
  • Evidence-based treatments designed to address the individual, relational, and social effects of addiction.3
  • Support and resources for aftercare.6
    • Family services.
    • Vocational assistance.
    • Legal services.
    • Mental health resources.
    • Educational opportunities.
    • HIV/AIDS education and support.
  • Increased healthy life skills.6

There are many different treatment settings, including short-term or long-term inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and individual and group therapy.3 The treatment setting and duration will be determined by a variety of factors, such as your psychological, medical, and vocational needs.3 Most commonly used in drug and alcohol rehab are individual and group therapy.3 Within these therapies, you can work toward improving the quality of your relationships, your motivation to change, and your problem-solving or coping skills.3

What Is the Difference Between Non-Religious and Spiritual Rehab?

Separating religion and spirituality can be difficult, but this is important for providing care. Religion is defined as an organization or community centered around a common faith or belief system.1 The common faith or belief system outlines theories for life after death and focuses on a divine entity.1 Spirituality appears similar in the sense that the individual feels a connection to something outside of one’s self, commonly like a higher power.1 Spirituality is a personalized experience, meaning that an individual can search for, define, and practice their beliefs by themselves.1 A spiritual setting might incorporate activities that stimulate thought, such as meditation or journaling, while a religious-based program might provide worship, teachings, or prayer opportunities.

Non-religious and spiritual drug and alcohol rehab programs are similar in that treatment usually consists of assessment, medication, therapy, and aftercare.3 Behavioral therapies and medication management are frequently prioritized in rehab.3 Depending on the rehabilitation facility, evidenced-based therapies like CBT or CM are used to promote recovery from drug and alcohol misuse.3

Find a Non-Religious Drug and Alcohol Rehab Center

Unfortunately, religious or spiritual-based treatment programs have dissuaded some people from seeking or continuing substance use treatment.5 Each individual has unique treatment needs, including the role that spirituality or religion may or may not play in their substance use recovery.3 Regardless, the benefits of substance use treatment, such as improved coping skills, relapse prevention, and recovery support, can be realized through both non-religious drug rehab therapies and traditional 12-step facilitation models.3

If you are considering substance use treatment, there is no better time to begin than right now. Entering treatment can feel intimidating when considering the cost and time investment. However, think about yourself as the long-term investment. The first place to start is to find a religious or non-religious rehab center or detox facility near you. Rehab facilities are located throughout the U.S., and many offer specialized treatment that can cater to individual needs. You can use SAMHSA’s Behavioral Services Locator to search for treatment centers. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’ Once your state website is located, substance use resources shouldn’t be hard to find, and they should provide further phone contacts for your assistance.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of addiction treatment programs and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. You can check what coverage is offered by your health insurance provider and review your cost options, and our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to help you find the addiction treatment you need. Call us free at .

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Senior Web Content Editor
Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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