The Impact of Spirituality on Addiction Treatment

Woman praying on the beach

Spirituality has been in Valley Hope’s DNA since day one.  The seeds of Valley Hope were planted over 50 years ago, between a physician and a minister who were at a loss for how to help an alcoholic community member.  What an extraordinary beginning…a man trained in science and a man trained in faith working together in a way that would ultimately lead to tens of thousands of people climbing out of the valley of addiction to lead renewed lives. Valley Hope continues to honor our founders by embracing the tension between science and faith in our treatment philosophy.

The spiritually-based 12 Step program is embedded in our treatment model. Our programing is designed and our staff selected and trained around an integrated holistic model of treatment.  Our physicians, nurses, counselors, chaplains, and officeand support staff are all an integral part of the treatment team. Together, with care and sensitivity, they explore and attend all the areas of a patient that may be causing them pain or suffering – mind, body, and spirit. Moreover, we are one of the few treatment organizations in the country to employ full time chaplains at each residential program. Current research supports the importance of spirituality in treating substance use disorders (SUD).  Although research focusing on the spiritual dimension of treatment has been relatively limited, recent findings are promising. Emerging evidence is showing that religiosity and spirituality reduces the likelihood of substance misuse, enhances treatment engagement and outcomes, facilitates recovery behaviors and length of sobriety, and improves quality of life. Yet more research is needed.

The Science of Spirituality

In addition, we know that most  patients are receptive to spirituality. In a 2017 Gallup poll, 89 percent of Americans indicated they believe in God or a “universal spirit” and 74 percent of Americans stated that religion is either very important or fairly important in their lives. Considering the strong spiritual belief system of the U.S population, it is not surprising that most people instinctively turn to their faith to help them cope with the uncertainties and fear that naturally accompanies illness and disease.  Research supports this, finding that most patients would welcome questions about their spirituality from clinical staff.

Since our beginning, Valley Hope has kept its finger on the pulse of the scientific advances in the field and, when appropriate, adjusted our treatment practices to follow suit. Yet, to better harness the enormous potential of research, Valley Hope recently took another step forward by forming a new research department. The Valley Hope Department of Research and Innovation will conduct research in a number of areas, but we are excited to announce that our first strategic area of research focus will be the role spirituality plays in addiction treatment.

Investigating the role that spirituality plays in addiction treatment may lead to promising new interventions, improved treatment experiences, and greater success for those working toward long-term recovery.

In the end, Valley Hope will continue to hold the scientific and the sacred in the same hand. We are firm in our belief that patient care, at its best, carefully employs both these areas. This requires both the skills of a well-trained practitioner and the heart of a compassionate soul, it requires rigorous assessment practices and abundant creativity, it requires clear objectivity and authentic emotional connection, and it requires reliance on the evidence as well as space for the sacred. Put simply, science brings us the right tools and the spirit brings them to life. Here at Valley Hope we will always be looking for ways sharpen our tools and deepen our spirit.