Report #1 Treatment and Relapse

Dr. Hope


Dr. Hope is a retired Professor of Psychology (also a recovered drug addict totally drug free for over twenty-one years). Write to him at PO Box 187 North Beach WA 6020. Real names are never used in this article.

The Bible is an excellent source of psychological understanding. Careful reading will reveal not only solutions to personal problems but helpful insights into research issues. The Bible can solve modern social-science problems.

One of our most serious social problems is failure of treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse and other addictions. Although reliable data are not always available, relapse rates are high for all forms of treatment.

What this means for you and me is that, no matter what treatment we choose, we can expect to recidive (backslide) eventually. Treatment programs are analogous to a car wash: we may come out clean but in time we get dirty again. The methods used to compare treatments will generally involve average time to first relapse, that is, how long before you end up back at the treatment center. The shorter the time to first relapse, the worse the treatment. Not a happy finding for those looking for a cure. Recently, a non-Christian colleague claimed to know of data showing that a leading 12-step program had "only a two-percent success rate."

What does the Bible say about this situation? Well, when it comes to abstaining from compulsions, the Bible clearly states that fellowship, rather than treatment, is the answer. This vital difference between fellowship and treatment is neglected in the psychological literature. If treatment is like a car-wash, then fellowship can be compared to a car club where people keep their cars clean. (I know these analogies are crude but bear with me.) If you stay in the club, you wash your car before it gets dirty.

Obvious, right? Yet many social scientists still keep trying to compare treatments and fellowships. This is worse than comparing apples and oranges: a treatment is to an apple as a fellowship is to a whole fruit basket: a fellowship can easily contain a variety of different treatments. Fellowships, therefore, have a much greater opportunity to be effective.

Another advantage of fellowships lies in continuing attendance. Unlike treatments which have a beginning and an end, fellowships go on and on. If the treatments used in the fellowship are the least bit successful, have a greater-than-zero success rate, then the more one attends, the greater the opportunity for success. Suppose, for example, that a fellowship has only a 2% recovery rate - meaning that, out of every one-hundred people sent there, only two will recover. Does that mean we should now discourage the other ninety-eight from attending? Not at all. Next time two percent of the losers can be expected to get it...and so on. Of course the probabilities are conditional and will change, but as long as they remain reasonably above zero, everyone can eventually get well.

The Bible Solution

Here comes the good news. An alcoholic or drug addict need never relapse at all - if he or she will remain in fellowship. This guaranteed promise, as good as a cure, can easily be proved even if the treatments used in the fellowship have a short relapse time! Actually, the time to relapse is almost irrelevant given frequent fellowship.

Take a simple treatment like "exhortation": when I fellowship with the Saints I am reminded not to take the first drug. Such a simple-minded "treatment" might have a short median time to first relapse, say, three days. Nevertheless, if I fellowship every two days, I need never abuse drugs again!

Can we compare fellowships? Regarding treatments, the main question may be "what is the success rate?" But with fellowships, the question is, "how long must I attend before benefits accrue?"

Fellowship in the Body of Christ

What makes one fellowship superior to another? To prevent relapse from addictions, a fellowship must meet frequently and be long-lasting, unchanging, accessible, low cost, harmless, fun, attractive, free from divisive power-struggles, and give steady, relevant treatment for the particular compulsion. Probably most important - it must be loving! Man-made fellowships tend to be short-lived, not readily available, sometimes cult-like, given to power-struggles, high-cost, and prone to what is known in sociology as "institutional drift." I believe only God-appointed fellowships really work. One God-given fellowship has lasted nearly two-thousand years and provided millions with total freedom from all known compulsions.

You guessed it. Again, Jesus is the answer! The Body of Christ meets all the criteria. Be sure to attend ALL your meetings. [Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another...Heb 10:25 KJV] Bible References Report #1 Treatment and Relapse

Acts 2:42 describes the beginning of the fellowship that is now generally called the Christian church.

I Corinthians 1:9 shows how we are called into companionship and participation with Godís son Jesus and in the following verses Paul begins to describe the characteristics that make the fellowship truly Christlike.

I Corinthians 12 lays out the special gifts and or endowments of supernatural energy that pertain to the fellowship by the Holy Spirit. He also shows how the different parts of the body of Christ work together for the benefit of all.

I Corinthians 13, a famous poem, shows that, without Godís love for and in us, fellowship fails.

II Corinthians 6:14 tells us to avoid fellowship with unbelievers. Stick with the strength.

Ephesians 4 proves there is only one body and Spirit. We must strive to preserve harmony and oneness.

Ephesians 5 shows us how to keep the fellowship pure and effective.

I John 1 says that fellowship is a distinguishing mark of Christians. When we fellowship properly with one another we also fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ the Messiah.


Charles Slack has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Princeton University and was an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at Harvard from 1955-1960. He is the author of numerous papers and one book. In 1980, he answered an altar-call, was born again, and received the Holy Spirit as promised by his Saviour, Jesus Christ. Charles now fellowships at the North Beach True Vine Assembly of God in Perth, Western Australia, where he plays the keyboard and serves as Treasurer.

Copyright © 1997, Charles W. Slack. All Rights Reserved.