The study by researchers from The University of Akron, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Baylor University - part of CWRU's "Project SOS" and "Helping Others Live Sober" research initiatives, two ongoing studies of adolescent addiction - explored changes in daily spiritual experiences of 195 substance-dependent adolescents, ages 14-18, who were court-referred for treatment at New Directions, the largest adolescent residential treatment facility in Northeast Ohio.
New Directions provides a range of evidence-based therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, group therapies, and relapse prevention and aftercare.
New Directions uses the 12-step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous, which does not require participants to hold any particular religious beliefs.
Researchers measured "daily spiritual experiences" independently of "religious beliefs and behaviors."
Daily spiritual experiences are not bound to any particular religious tradition and include reported feelings of a divine presence, inner peace or harmony, and selflessness and benevolence toward others.
The researchers found that, on the "religious beliefs and behaviors" scale, adolescents reported a range of belief orientations at intake, including atheist, agnostic, unsure, non-denominational spiritual or denominational religious.
The researchers also found that most of the adolescents, regardless of their religious background or denomination, reported having more daily spiritual experiences by the end of the two month treatment period.
The study, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, is the first to include detailed measures of both spirituality and religiosity as independent variables at baseline and over the course of treatment, while controlling for background characteristics and clinical severity, says Co-Investigator Dr. Matthew T. Lee, professor and chair of sociology at The University of Akron.