Alcohol has been used in religious ceremonies for thousands of years and plays a major part in Jewish and most Christian rites around the world today. It has and continues to contributed to followers’ spiritual fulfillment.

To be spiritual is not necessarily to be religious. Non-believers can be spiritual in that they feel emotionally connected with the world and experience meaning in their lives.

Alcoholics Anonymous considers alcoholism to have three components: mental, physical, and spiritual. Alcoholics are viewed as having a physical allergy to alcohol,1 a mental obsession to keep on drinking, and an spiritual void such that willpower is inadequate.2 They sometimes express the feeling that they have a hole in their soul or an emptiness in their life.

Spiritual therapy can take many forms, including faith healing, prayer, meditation, psychic techniques, Reiki, and many others. Common is the belief that a spirit or energy heals or helps the body to heal itself.

Spirituality is often or even usually used with many therapeutic approaches and techniques such as holistic treatment, naturopathy, yoga, energy therapy, Theta healing,and guided imagery.

It appears that, for believers, spirituality can be highly motivating. An extensive review of the research led to the conclusion that “spirituality, however difficult to define3 in operational [identification or measurement] terms, likely constitutes an important motivator for recovery for some (perhaps many) substance-dependent people.”4

Many clinical trials have been conducted but, as of yet, have not demonstrated the effectiveness of any spiritual healing over that associated with a placebo effect. This is not surprising because spiritual therapy is based on theories inconsistent with known scientific principles.

The spiritually-based A.A. is actually less effective (5%) than is spontaneous remission or receiving no treatment of any kind (36%, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Twelve-step programs have a high failure rate as do other spiritually-based programs. This suggests that some of the steps may be counterproductive.

Because effective alternative programs are available, people can receive the help they need to lead lives free of alcohol and drug problems. Such programs include HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support), LifeRing, Women for Sobriety, Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), Moderation Management, and the Life Process Program. None of these programs require any spiritual beliefs. However, participants are free to use spirituality if they wish.

Disclaimer: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, drinking, rehabs, programs, or any other matter and none should be inferred. Neither this website nor your host receives any compensation, directly or indirectly, from listing or describing any program. Such listing or description does not imply endorsement. [+]


  • 1. Is Alcoholism an Allergy to Alcohol?
  • 2. Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., fourth edition, 2001. This is commonly called The Big Book.
  • 3. Spiritual beliefs range from those promoted by major religions, to individual personal beliefs, to those of Eastern philosophies. One of the latter leads to the teaching that “40% of the causes of addictions are due to ghosts or departed ancestors from the spiritual dimension. The seeds of addictions are introduced in the womb itself by such entities. Due to the spiritual nature of the cause of addictions, only spiritual healing can effectively overcome addiction.” (Spiritual Science Research Foundation website. )
  • 4. Galanter, Marc, Dermatis, Helen, Bunt, Gregory, Williams,(M.D.), Manuel Trujillo, Caroline, Steinke, Paul. Special article: Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to addiction treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2007, 33, 257–264. P. 263,
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  • Carroll, J.F.X., McGinley, J.J., & Mack, S.E. Exploring the Expressed Spiritual Needs and Concerns of Drug-Dependent Males in Modified, Therapeutic Community Treatment. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 2000, 18(1), 79-92.
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  • Galanter, M., Dematis, H., Bunt, G., Williams, C., Trujillo, M., & Steinke, P. Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to addiction treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2007, 33(3), 257-264.
  • Johnsen, E. The role of spirituality in recovery from chemical dependency. Journal of Addictions and Offender Counseling, 1993, 13, 2.
  • Klingemann, H., Schiafli, K., and Steiner, M. "What do you mean by spirituality? Please draw me a picture!" Complementary faith-based addiction treatment in Switzerland from the client's perspective. Substance Use and Misuse, 2013, 48(12), 187-202.
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  • Miller, M.M., & Chavier, M. Clinicians' Experiences of Integrating Prayer in the Therapeutic Process. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 2013, 15(2), 70-93.
  • Miller, W.R., Forcehimes,, O’Leary, M.J., & LaNoue, M.D. Spiritual direction in addiction treatment: two clinical trials. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2008, 35(4), 434-442.
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  • Priester, E., Scherer, J., Steinfeldt, J. A., Jana-Masri, A., Jashinsky, T., Jones, J.E., & Vang, C. The frequency of prayer, meditation and holistic interventions in addictions treatment: a national survey. Pastoral Psychology, 2009, 58(3), 315-322.
  • Warfield, R.D., & Goldstein, M.B.Spirituality: the key to recovery from alcoholism. Counseling and Values, 1996, 40(3), 196-205.
  • Washington, O. G., & Moxley, D. P. The use of prayer in group work with African American women recovering from chemical dependency. Families in Society, 2001, 82, 49–59.

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