One reason that people consider going to therapy is that they can’t solve their own problems through their existing social connections or self-analysis. Many mental health programs, including those supporting drug and alcohol addicts, contain at least one dimension of spirituality, especially because this aspect helps participants feel hopeful about their future. Here, we consider common mental health concerns:
Should You Go to a Therapist for Recovery?
A drug or alcohol addict might need therapy because his or her behavior is destructive. It’s hard to imagine the path to recovery without spirituality. One way to frame this discussion is that many twelve-step programs (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous) refer to a higher power or God. People in recovery may question their relationship with a higher power. They may feel as though they have lost their faith in their God. In therapy, they may wish to reestablish their faith connection but feel uncertain how to do it. They may question the role of God in their lives and ask how He allowed their situation to happen at all. They may blame their addiction on God or people in their social support network, but ultimately they must assume personal responsibility for their condition. They may have felt that God was not there when needed. However, they may recognize how faith will aid their healing process. It’s common to view substance abuse as being against what one’s faith teaches in the first place. In this context, addiction produces feelings of shame and guilt and discourages people from reconnecting with their god, even soliciting assistance from others in a faith-based organization. They don’t want to be perceived as having a mental illness, which addiction surely can be.
Where is the Research?
It is surprising that there is not much research about the role of spirituality. Very few studies will mention the role of spirituality. One Gallup poll found this: “Among the general U.S. population, 9 of 10 Americans believe in God or a universal spirit, and only 6% do not believe in either.” Another source by C. Cook searched Medline and found the following dimensions of spirituality: relatedness, transcendence, humanity, core/force/soul, meaning/purpose, authenticity/truth, values, non-materiality, (non-)religiousness, wholeness, self-knowledge, creativity, and consciousness.” In therapy, practitioners can show cultural tolerance towards people with different beliefs and encourage them to talk about their relationship with their higher power throughout the process. Acknowledging feelings and working through them helps people heal.
How Can You Build Better Habits?
Spirituality also relates to the recovery process for each individual in a very specific way. One of the ways that recovering addicts can fight their disease is to develop coping skills that are applicable to different situations, especially those associated with high levels of stress. They can use replacement strategies, such as praying or going for a long walk, when they feel an urge to abuse their preferred substance. The more that patients use better habits, the less that they may depend on a substance abuse for escape. They can use therapy to work through internal conflicts and emotions. For some, this work could take years.
What Happens If You Relapse?
Addicts may feel deeply committed to recovery but “slip” along the way. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “drug use causes changes to the brain that interfere with how people experience normal pleasures in life such as food and sex, their ability to control their stress level, their decision-making, their ability to learn and remember, etc.” These changes make it much more difficult for someone to stop taking the drug even when it’s having negative effects on their life and they want to quit. When a patient relapses, the episode could damage their self-esteem and change how others perceive them. A relapse is a setback for them and for everyone in their social support network. If they start drinking or using drugs again, they will need to regain the progress that they had just made. Regaining it might not take quite as long as it did the first time, but it could take longer. That’s because the recovery process is specific to each individual and relates to their motivation for getting better and for changing their lifestyle.