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Studying the Higher Power

The “Higher Power Project” looks at the way spirituality is used in 12 step addiction treatment. Dr Wendy Dossett and Professor John Stoner have worked with addicts for many years. They are both researchers in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Chester and are studying how people in 12 Step Recovery describe their Higher Power.

The two researchers explain how the 12 Step type of recovery is based upon the addicted individual accepting his/her powerlessness over their  substance use. When the addict becomes aware of being powerless, he or she must find an alternative power. In the past, this power was described in religious or spiritual terms. Dossett and Stoner are enquiring if this is still the case today.  

The research participants  have been in recovery for at least six months. They responded to a questionnaire and a thirty minute telephone interview. These interviews were then analysed with regard to contemporary spirituality.

Thirteen former patients from a 12 step treatment centre participated in the study, which is 11 pages long, each of whom described how they understand the steps. All participants said that they practise the twelve steps daily. All the former patients had exposure to religion as children, but most of them don’t consider themselves to be religious today. However, they say that the belief in a higher power which “works for them” is essential in their recovery.

Castle Craig recognises the importance of more research into the 12 steps and has invited former patients to participate in the study.

Castle Craig also sent five staff members to the Higher Power Project conference which took place at the University of Chester in february 2013. Speakers from a variety of faiths including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Latter Day Saints and Judaism described programmes grounded in those religious contexts. Various professionals including a GP, a Clinical Services Coordinator, and a Commissioning and Contracts Manager shared the ways in which they have been able to incorporate a twelve step approach into their practice.An important conclusion of the conference was that the addiction professionals and people in recovery should cooperate more.

To find out more about the Higher Power Project, please visit University of Chester’s website.