Christian Rehab for Veterans Struggling with Addiction

3 min read · 4 sections

Faith-based rehab programs for Veterans offer substance use treatment that’s not only grounded in religious ideology but also geared toward the distinct needs of Veterans.

Treatment focused on Veterans and various religious faiths are a logical pairing, as service members and Veterans face unique risk factors, including the stress of deployment and active duty, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), injuries, and other physical and mental health conditions.1,2 Additionally, some Veterans regularly employ spirituality as a primary coping strategy in the face of trauma, stress, and health issues.3 So a faith- or Christian-based rehab for Veterans may be an effective treatment solution for this unique population.

Read on to learn more about faith-based rehab, Christian-specific programs, and treatment focused on the unique needs of Veterans.

What Is Faith-Based Rehab?

While various definitions exist, a faith-based rehab is basically a treatment program that is linked to an organized faith community and has a religious ideology.4

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), one of the first substance use treatment options, launched as a faith-based program in 1935.5 While AA initially suggested that recovery was achieved through spiritual and quasi-religious means and it employed a Christian foundation, in recent years the organization has placed less emphasis on what it called a “spiritual awakening.”5 Currently, it’s considered a spiritually inclined but nondenominational program.

AA, however, certainly isn’t the only faith-based organization offering treatment options. In fact, the quantity of such programs seems to be increasing. This is due in part to legislation such as the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which created a provision called “Charitable Choice” that allowed government funds to be applied to religious organizations doing community service work. This legislative trend continued with the passage of the Faith-Based Community Initiative in 2002 and the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Act in 2009, which expanded cooperative relationships between government and religious organizations for public programs.6

To give you some context, a few commonly known faith-based organizations offering some form of substance use treatment or assistance include:

  • Catholic Charities.
  • The Salvation Army.
  • Jewish Family Services.
  • Celebrate Recovery.
  • The Potter’s House.
  • Victory Ministries.

So how do faith-based programs differ from secular treatment options?

Generally speaking, faith-based rehab services have a more overt connection to religious practice. This can include potentially mandatory religious services, prayer groups, time devoted to the study of religious texts, or other activities designed to strengthen patients’ relationships with their faith.6

According to results from an analysis published in the Journal of Social Work, some faith-based programs may also employ the following practices:6

  • Using religious instruction.
  • Distributing religious materials.
  • Permitting staff to pray with clients.
  • Screening staff for religious beliefs.
  • Employing a mission statement that contains religious terms.
  • Encouraging client conversion.
  • Employing mandatory religious practices.
  • Assisting clients in joining a congregation.

What Are Veteran-Focused Rehabs?

Because Veterans are at a slightly higher risk for developing a substance use problem than the general public, Veteran-centric treatment programs have been designed to address the risk factors and barriers to care that are specific to former service members. These barriers can include lack of insurance coverage, gaps in coverage, fear of negative consequences or stigma, and lack of confidentiality in treatment services.1

Veteran-related rehab programs are designed to overcome these barriers while considering the challenges faced by Veterans that may contribute to their substance misuse. For example, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers treatment options that include multiple levels of care, including evidenced-based behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), and motivational enhancement therapy (MET). VA healthcare providers can also assist with medication management and medication-assisted treatment, such as buprenorphine for opioid use disorder or acamprosate for alcohol misuse.7

However, there are also treatment options available to Veterans beyond those offered through the VA. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is part of the VA Community Care Network, which is a system of healthcare providers that offer care to Veterans when the VA is unable to do so—either due to a Veteran’s location or specific unmet healthcare needs. In fact, AAC is a Community Care Partner, which means qualified Veterans can receive care at any of our facilities when they require treatment for alcohol or drug misuse. Contact us to see if you qualify at .

Are There Faith-Based Treatment Programs for Veterans?

Indeed, some treatment facilities offer both Veteran and faith-based treatment services. For instance, AAC’s Greenhouse Treatment Center, located in Grand Prairie, TX, provides both a Christian Recovery Program and Veterans Services. The former offers a comprehensive faith-based addiction recovery curriculum, which employs evidenced-based substance abuse treatment that is also consistent with biblical principles. The Christian Recovery Program offers individual and group Christian drug counseling, educational classes, and group fellowship activities—along with outings to church services in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.

In addition to Greenhouse Treatment Center, multiple AAC facilities offer Veterans Services, which provide specialized treatment allowing patients to connect with staff and peers who understand Veterans’ unique challenges. Plus, AAC offers spiritually inclined 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.  To find out more about how AAC facilities incorporate faith-based programming into substance use treatment, contact an .

Several faith- and Veteran-based options also exist outside of AAC. To find one that meets your needs, consider speaking with religious leaders in your faith community. They may have knowledge of treatment centers that honor your beliefs while also providing services specific to the needs of Veterans.

Another option is to search for treatment programs that target Veterans, perhaps through your local VA, and then inquire about their faith-based services. Some treatment centers clearly publicize their prayer services or discussion groups. However, others don’t promote these connections even though they may have an affiliation with local places of worship.

Why Are Veterans at a Higher Risk for Addiction?

Veterans may be at a higher risk of addiction due to stressors of previous deployment, combat exposure, and post-deployment civilian-reintegration challenges—not to mention the culture of the military itself. Aspects such as zero-tolerance policies for substance use and mandatory drug testing may dissuade service members from seeking treatment when they need it. Plus, there may be stigma related to seeking help for mental health issues, prompting service members to act in unhealthy ways, such as drinking or using other substances.1

Additionally, mental health problems tend to precede substance use for many Veterans, particularly in the case of Veterans experiencing PTSD. Other common comorbid mental health diagnoses among Veterans who misuse substances can include mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.8 Veterans may also face difficulties in their personal lives and relationships due to the stress of deployment and reintegrating after active duty.1

American Addiction Centers’ Veteran Program

AAC’s Veteran program is uniquely tailored to the needs of Veterans seeking substance use treatment. The Veteran program is a great fit for Christian Veterans in that it offers fellowship opportunities with other peers in recovery as well as faith-based approaches such as the 12-Step program.

Employing evidence-based treatments, the Veteran program provides individualized care to current service members and retired Veterans from all military branches as well as first responders, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services providers, emergency dispatchers, and correctional officers.

If you or a loved one is a Veteran seeking faith-based rehab services, reach out to AAC today for more information and support.


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