There has been a growing trend to weave spiritual practices in with mental health treatment, including sober living rehabilitative centers. These centers are at times referred to as a holistic drug treatment centers and they can include more than drug counseling, therapy, family therapy, support groups, and life skill groups.
However, for many years behavioral health therapists, those that tend to facilitate drug counseling for recovery addicts, have shied away from spirituality. In fact, the entire field of mental health has kept spirituality out of its practices. Nonetheless, little by little, practitioners are incorporating practices such as meditation and mindfulness into their work with clients. The success of mindfulness along with recent research on the benefits of meditation, particularly for the brain, has given spirituality a foothold in the world of therapy and recovery.
Rev. Laura Mancuso was once a psychiatric rehabilitation counselor and now she is an interfaith minister. After working for 15 years in the mental health field, she struggled with health challenges and losses in her life. That difficult time prompted her journey to get ordained and now incorporates spirituality into her practice.
Laura notes that “spirituality is highly personal, very central to a person’s inner life, and oftentimes inseparable from one’s cultural identity. It seems to me that if mental health programs can figure out how to respect and support the spirituality of the people we serve and the people we employ, we will have figured out how to respect and support their very essence as human beings. That’s why spirituality should be included in programs that intend to be holistic, culturally competent, and recovery-oriented.”
Certainly, spirituality brings a recovering addict, or anyone, to their essence. For this reason, it might be the very reason spirituality has the ability to facilitate healing. In fact, a cycle of addiction perpetuates the disconnection from one’s power. Having practices that re-connect one to their essence can provide clarity, restoration, and a sense of self worth.
Some methods by which holistic halfway houses and other types of rehabilitative centers do this include:
- Deep Breathing
- Nutrition Counseling
- Equine Therapy
- Sweat Lodges
- Adventure Therapy
- Organic Food Choices
- Physical Exercise
- Sauna Use
- Spiritual Exploration and Study
Traditionally, clinicians have been taught to steer away from spirituality, partly to prevent supporting delusions in their patients. Also, many mental health services are publicly funded and the organizations that run those programs must be careful not to promote religion. To do this, many publicly funded programs providing drug counseling and mental health services are relying on scientific evidence, often called evidence based practices. However, those evidence based practices can keep some organizations from seeing concepts and processes spiritual in nature that have been effective. Furthermore, because those spiritually-oriented programs are at times difficult to measure, they are frequently ignored.
Despite this, spiritually oriented recovery programs are growing in numbers, and many recovering addicts and clients are drawn to practices such as meditation, yoga, and nutritional counseling.
In fact, a recent study indicated that spirituality could help in recovery at rehabilitative centers. Although experts at The University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University, and Baylor University performed the study, the research itself took place at a facility called New Directions in Northeast Ohio.
In this study specifically, the results indicated that changes in spiritual experiences were correlated to better treatment outcomes. Specifically, the positive treatment outcomes included lower levels of drug occurrence, less self-centeredness, and higher frequency of positive social behavior. Furthermore, the daily spiritual experiences reported by the participants included feeling a divine presence, having a sense of inner peace, and a feeling of benevolence towards others.
A rehabilitative environment that includes both spiritual and traditional experiences of recovery are meant to facilitate in adults deeper insight into the choices they are making for their life and encourage connection with a core self. Of course, holistic activities also help to promote physical well being, a healthy self-image, productive coping mechanisms, and psychological health. When these are combined with the right rehabilitative environment for sober living, they can create lasting change.
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