Faith-based recovery can be traced back to early Native American tribes, the Washingtonian Movement, the Oxford Group, and Alcoholics Anonymous; all of which included some degree of spiritual principles. Many individuals in active addiction have little or no faith in the possibility of recovery or any concept of a higher power. In fact, they don’t have faith in very much at all and may feel abandoned by family, friends, and certainly a god of their understanding. Conversely, individuals in active addiction who do have a strong faith face a different struggle; that being how their addiction issues and behaviors conflict with their faith.

Faith, by definition, means putting your trust in someone or something. In faith-based recovery an individual puts their trust in the teachings of a particular religion or spiritual program to overcome their addiction and find recovery. Faith-based recovery programs can be religious, spiritual or a combination or the two. Religious programs are based on the teachings of a particular religion, while spiritual programs are concerned with an individual’s spirit. For example, a christian-based program like Celebrate Recovery might be based on Christ’s teachings, while a Jewish-based program might be based on the teachings in the Torah. Newer faith-based programs like Refuge Recovery closely follow the principles of Buddhism.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA), faith-based recovery is “an opportunity for places of worship and fellowship to support and strengthen families in their communities by offering recovery programs to help individuals beat their addictions.”

Because faith-based recovery programs can be hosted by individual places of worship, sober-living homes, treatment centers and 12-step programs, we don’t know the exact number of faith-based recovery programs, but some of the best known include the 12-Step Model, Celebrate Recovery, Refuge Recovery, and Wellbriety.

In May, 2010, The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in collaboration with the Administration for Children and Youth (ACF) and the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA), sponsored the 2010 Community Leaders and Interfaith Partnership Summit, “One Voice, One Community and One Purpose.” The summit brought together 16 teams of community- and faith-based leaders that represented communities with high prevalence rates of mental health and or substance use disorders.

These teams engaged in solution focused discussions about finding common ground for collaboration and expanding service capacity to respond to the multiple and diverse needs of individuals and families affected by substance use and mental health disorders and co-occurring illnesses such as HIV/AIDS. Representatives of several faith-based and community organizations from New York City participated in the summit. After three days of insightful presentations, intense discussions and workshops focused on the needs of the community and the intrinsic value of collaborative efforts, the group agreed to form an umbrella coalition to address common concerns. Invigorated by the “Washington Experience,” these individuals returned to New York and met with other community organizations to share what they had learned. The outcome of this meeting was the establishment of the New York Recovery Community Coalition (NYRCC).

Today, NYRCC works to bring the community of faith-based organizations together to promote unity and healing, to provide hope and inspire those who struggle to use their faith (no matter which faith it is) to overcome addiction. NYRCC meets every first Thursday of the month at OASAS’ New York City office — 501 7th Avenue. At least ten faith-based groups regularly attend. They also host Town Hall meetings on a variety of issues important to the community including Substance Use Disorders, HIV/AIDS, and re-entry following incarceration. To learn more about the New York Recovery Community Coalition email the group at nyrcc.[email protected] and consider attending their next monthly meeting.

Click on the links below to learn more about a few of the faith-based programs active today.

Celebrate Recovery

Jewish Recovery Communities

National Association for Christian Recovery

SAMHSA Faith-based & Community Initiatives

Straight Path to Recovery – Islam-focused support for Muslims in Recovery


Refuge Recovery