The Use of Therapeutic Rituals in Substance Abuse Treatment

Becky L. Thomas, Utah State University


This study explored the use of rituals in substance abuse counseling. Data were obtained from a total of 25 mental health workers in the substance abuse field from the northern region of Utah. Four research questions were asked about rituals and their use in substance abuse counseling: (I) Are addictions therapists using rituals? (2) How did therapists determine when to use rituals? (3) What types of rituals do they use? and (4) How do therapists assess ritual effectiveness? Results indicated that about three fourths of the mental health workers questioned were using rituals in their treatment protocol with substance abuse clients. The most common methods used for determining when to implement rituals into treatment were (a) clients were emotionally stuck, (b) client's cognitive ability, and (c) therapist's perception. The findings also suggested that therapists presented means of assessing the effectiveness of the rituals they implemented, but the data also supported past literature findings that showed little empirical means of assessment.