Spiritual help for alcoholism is widely used. It is central to Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s often used in other approaches to healing.

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

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

Alcoholics Anonymous considers alcoholism to have three components. They are the 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 Alcoholics sometimes express the feeling that they have a hole in their soul or an emptiness in their life. Spiritual help for alcoholism is the foundation of  Alcoholics Anonymous.

Spiritual help for alcoholism can take many forms. It can be practiced through 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.

Spiritual help for alcoholism is often or even usually used with many approaches and techniques. They include such as holistic treatment, naturopathy, yoga, energy therapy, Theta healing, and guided imagery.

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

Effectiveness of Spiritual Help for Alcoholism

Many clinical trials have been conducted. None have shown effectiveness of any spiritual help for alcoholism over that associated with a placebo effect. This is not surprising. 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. That is, cure without treatment of any kind. No treatment leads to a 36% success rate. That’s according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Twelve-step programs have a very high failure rate. This suggests that at least some of the 12 steps may be counterproductive.

But effective alternative programs are available. People can receive help they to lead lives free of alcohol problems. Free and programs include these.

HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support).


Women for Sobriety.

Rational Recovery.

SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training).

Moderation Management.

There is also a low-cost program, the Life Process Program

None of these programs requires any spiritual beliefs. However, participants are free to use spirituality if they wish.

Readings on Spiritual Help for Alcoholism

  • spiritual help for alcoholismBowden, J.W. Recovery from alcoholism: a spiritual journey. Issues Ment Health Nurs, 1998, 19(4), 337-352
  • Brown, Jr., H.P., et al.  A behavioral/cognitive spiritual model for a chemical dependency aftercare program. Alc Treat Q, 1988, 5(1-2), 153.
  • Carroll, J.F.X., et al. Exploring the expressed spiritual needs and concerns of drug-dependent males in modified, therapeutic community treatment. Alc Trear Q, 2000, 18(1), 79-92.
  • Carroll, S. Spirituality and purpose in life in alcoholism recovery. J Stud Alc, , 1993, 54, 297–301.
  • Carter, R.N. The effects of spiritual practices on recovery from substance abuse. J Psychiat Ment Health Nurs, 1998, 5(5), 409-413.
  • Day, E., et al. Spirituality is not everyone’s cup of tea for treating addiction. Brit Med J, 2003, 326, 881.
  • Delaney, H.D., et al. Integrating spirituality into alcohol treatment. J Clin Psych, 2009, 65(2),185-198,
  • Feigenbaum, J.C. A historical review of perceptions of key aspects of spirituality and religion within Alcoholics Anonymous. J Addict Nurs, 2013, 24(4), 229-236.
  • Galanter, M., et al. Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to addiction treatment. J Sub Abuse Treat, 2007, 33(3), 257-264.
  • Johnsen, E. The role of spirituality in recovery from chemical dependency. J Addict Offend Coun, 1993, 13, 2.
  • Klingemann, H., et al. “What do you mean by spirituality?  Sub Use Misuse, 2013, 48(12), 187-202.
  • Kus, R. J. Prayer and Meditation in Addiction Recovery. In R. J. Kus (Ed.), Spirituality and Chemical Dependency. NY: Harrington Park, 1995. Pp. 101-115.
  • Miller, M.M., & Chavier, M. Clinicians’ experiences of integrating prayer in the therapeutic process. J Spirit Ment Health, 2013, 15(2), 70-93.
  • Miller, W.R., et al. Spiritual direction in addiction treatment: two clinical trials. J Sub Abuse Treat, 2008, 35(4), 434-442.
  • O’Murchu, D. Spirituality, recovery, and transcendental mediation. Alc Treat Q, 1994, 11(1-2), 169-184.
  • Priester, E., et al. The frequency of prayer, meditation and holistic interventions in addictions treatment. Pastoral Psych, 2009, 58(3), 315-322.
  • Warfield, R.D., & Goldstein, M.B. Spirituality: the key to recovery from alcoholism. Coun 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. Fam Soc, 2001, 82, 49–59.

References: Spiritual Help for Alcoholism

1. Is Alcoholism an Allergy to Alcohol?

2. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: AA World Services, Inc., 4th ed., 2001. This is commonly called The Big Book.

3. Spiritual beliefs range widely. Many are those of major religions. S0me are individual personal beliefs.  Others are from Eastern philosophies. One teaches 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 site. spiritualresearchfoundation.org/addictions/ )

4. Galanter, M., et al. Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to addiction treatment. J Sub Abuse Treat, 2007, 33, 257–264. P. 263,

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Filed Under: Treating Alcoholism: General Approaches