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Is Christian Rehab Too Exclusive?
The Who, Why and How of Effective Christian Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) Treatment
At a meeting of addiction treatment experts, I heard a former pastor extoll the virtues of inclusivity in treatment while shaming the “exclusivity” of a particular belief-based approach to treatment. Just a few months ago I called Alcoholics Anonymous a cult in a meeting of “Christian counselors” where “doorknobs” might be the higher powers that help drunks stay sober, while citing humanitarianism Manifesto agenda to replace Christianity with a “science of mind” religion. At the same time, back on the ranch, many psychologists, psychiatrists, and researchers attempted to attribute the neuroses and dysfunctions of many families and individuals to the religions that organized Western civilization. These extreme, myopic, and misinformed views provide context for a vastly misunderstood group of therapy consumers. This introductory article will briefly discuss the needs of this group and effective ways to meet them.
special needs groups
Mary is a 43-year-old divorced and remarried mother of two sons from her first marriage of 6 years and a daughter from her second marriage of 9 years. Mary reports that her high school sweetheart’s first husband, whom she met at church camp, beat and “cheated on” her. Her mother was an alcoholic, and Mary said one of her mother’s boyfriends harassed “Mom” when she passed out. Mary is well-mannered and well-dressed, with a nervous smile and prominent dark circles around her eyes (the mask of depression). Mary described losing temporary custody of her first two children in her first marriage when she heeded the advice of church elders to return to live with her despite her husband’s alcoholism and violence. In one particularly loud and violent incident, her neighbors called Child Protective Services and the local municipal police department. Mary and her first husband were ordered to attend mandatory parenting and anger management classes. Mary was later referred to a psychiatrist, put on Valium and Prozac, moved to a battered women’s shelter and divorced her first husband. Her church leaders, she claims, blamed secular counseling and the courts for Mary’s divorce. Mary changed church denominations and church members. A year after joining a new church, Mary met her second husband at a church “Divorce Recovery” seminar. Meanwhile, Mary’s Valium use was increased from “5 mg per day, no more than 10 mg as needed” to “10 mg three times a day, 15 mg each night at bedtime.” Mary also started drinking with dinner after her first divorce. She now drinks eight to ten bottles of “mini vodka” a day. Mary’s husband blamed worldly psychology for Mary’s heightened anxiety and addiction to Valium and alcohol. Mary and her second husband are looking for an effective Substance Abuse/Dual Diagnosis treatment facility.
This brief vignette hints at many aspects of fundamentalist Christians’ fear of the vagaries of life in our postmodern secular humanist approach. As a potential consumer of AODA therapy, Mary has “special needs.” Would this client benefit from admission to a “typical” AODA or dual diagnosis treatment facility? Would she or her husband consider placing her in such an environment? If “trust” is what opens the door to connecting with her counselors and peers in a therapeutic setting, then what does MARYS need to build trust? While it would be easy for the “New Age” to sit and judge Mary’s religion, wouldn’t it be the same judgment these New Ages profess to oppose? If an “enlightened” newcomer asks to be sent to a primarily black-staffed treatment facility that specializes in “African-American” acculturation issues, rather than being admitted into a local “one-size-fits-all” all-white staff “New-Age- 4-U” local treatment center?
Clinical Voices – the good, the bad and the ugly
There are a large number of AODA treatment centers that claim to be biblical or faith based. With Teen Challenge, Salvation Army, Transformation House, Uncle Bob’s House of God (Contrived), how do clinicians and potential clients know the difference?
In many “Christian healing centers” excessive guilt, shame, and obsession with the concept of “sin” try to manipulate change by creating mental and volitional discomfort at the thought of falling back into substance use/abuse patterns. These methods suspend any attempt to understand the motivations, wants, and needs of the client that they may be trying to satisfy through an addictive lifestyle. Clinically plausible models, whether based on Christianity or not, understand that humans perform behavior for a given motive or goal! Conversely, ignoring “sin” or similar concepts prevents clients from confronting their immoral/immoral actions and their repercussions. Every healthy treatment philosophy includes “taking stock” of negative behaviors, their effects, motivations, expression of regret/regret and correcting thoughts, feelings, behaviors and appropriate compensation.
The “automata” syndrome is another troubling set of weaknesses. Recovering from addiction and recovering yourself requires greater “self-preservation” than being limited to quoting or paraphrasing a book, no matter how sacred and inspiring that text may be. Christ’s admonition,
37 Jesus answered, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. [Deut 6:5.] 38 This is the greatest (most important, main) and first commandment. 39 The second is similar: Love your neighbor as yourself [you do] yourself. [Lev 19:18.] 40 These two commandments are summed up, and all the laws and the prophets depend upon them. “
To be clear; we are to develop, understand and know our true selves. Clinically poor “Christian” programs may ignore this and be content to create religious robots. Understanding and being able to quote and apply scriptural commandments is an important part of Christian healing. Obsession with sin and the Bible does not equate to recovery.
Another area of contention for “Christian” programs and counselors is documentation and outcome measurement. One of ten “counselor certification” agencies recognized by the California Alcohol and Drug Program rejects any request that involves documenting treatment practice, client progression and outcome measurement. Clinically Sound Biblical Therapy Understanding the Biblical Foundations of Accountability. The scientific method is not the enemy of sound clinical biblical therapy. The topic is too broad to be addressed in this article.
Many Christian consumers worry that secular or humanities-based healing options may “undermine the theory, techniques, foundations, beliefs, and practices of the faith.” Effective and clinically sound “faith-based” programs can and do exist. From a niche marketing standpoint and a human empathy standpoint, they are a necessity. Many “needy” Christians feel hopeless. Their only option is to “go into rehab” after being mentally abused, or to be treated in a program that doesn’t understand their unique needs. Fortunately, some clinically sound Christian courses are already available. The above criteria set us apart.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Humanist Manifesto is the title of three manifestos that articulate a humanist worldview. These are the original Humanist Manifesto (1933, often referred to as Humanist Manifesto I), Humanist Manifesto II (1973) and Humanism and Its Aspirations (2003, also known as Humanist Manifesto III). The manifesto originally arose from religious humanism, although secular humanists also signed the manifesto.
The central theme of all three is the exposition of a philosophy and value system, which does not necessarily include belief in any personal deity or “higher power”, although the three differ greatly in tone, form, and ambition. Each was signed at the time of its publication by various eminent scholars and others who generally agreed with its principles.
For more information, contact Pastor CADC II Matthew Weyuker MA, Transformation House (WomensChristianRecovery.com) at 1-877-900-7326
or Pacific Hills Treatment Center.
Blazer, Lisa, and Ryan, “Debunking Psychology” (Creation House Press, 2002) pgs. 1-241
Bluckley, Ed, “Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology” (Harvest House, 1993) pgs. 47-258
Ellis, Albert, “The Case Against Religion: A Psychotherapist’s Perspective” (New York: Institute for Rational Living, 1971)
Ellis, Albert, “No Guilty Concept in Psychotherapy,” Journal of Counseling Psychology 7 (1960): pgs.188-192
Lowinson, Ruiz, Millman, and Langrod, “Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, Fourth Edition” (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2005): pgs. 587-598, 653-670, 723-732, 763-771, 1286-1299
Schaeffer, Francis A., “The Complete Works of Francis A Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview: Volume 5: Christian Perspectives in the West” (Crossway Books, 1982) pgs. 417-501
Yalom, Irvin D. and Leszcz, Molyn, “Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy: 5th Edition” (2005: Basic Books): pgs. 77-108
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