Finding sobriety, and saving money, through spirituality

hol problems who are treated in programs based on the approaches of spiritually oriented self-help organizations like AA," he said, "are more likely to abstain from drugs and alcohol after treatment, and also have much lower health-care costs than do patients treated in programs that do not emphasis AA-style principles." The study showed that the faith-based approach lowers post-treatment costs by about two-thirds, or about $5000 per year per patient.

Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935 by Bill W. (AA members use first names only), requires its members to follow 12 steps of behavior that are based on 12 spiritual principles. Twelve-step oriented treatment programs strongly encourage patients to attend self-help groups after treatment is completed. As a result, these individuals tend to rely on their AA and NA groups for support, and much less on professional counseling services, after they leave the hospital. Cognitive-behavioral treatment, on the other hand, uses more professional and scientific activities such as cognitive skills training and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy to teach people how to contend with situations that may tempt them to drink, cope with negative moods that may lead to drinking, etc. Once treatment is completed, these patients tend to rely more on professional services for support.

"There has always been debate about AA," noted Lee Ann Kaskutas, a research scientist with the Alcohol Research Group at Berkeley. "Medical people have been suspicious more often than not, because they feel AA is unproven, and also because AA has a 'god component' that doesn't make it seem very scientific. Members of AA, people who have become sober there, are at the other end of the spectrum. They are total believers, and they can be heard saying 'there is no easier, softer way' than AA."

Yet despite skepticism by the medical establishment, said Kaskutas, studies such as this one show that treatment methods that emphasize AA methods

Contact: Keith Humphreys, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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