Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Counseling Psychology, Ph.D.

First Advisor

Elvin Gabriel

Second Advisor

Carole Woolford-Hunt

Third Advisor

Nancy Carbonell



An estimated 12.7% of the US population meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The annual cost to the society, including emergency room visits, lost days at work, and accidents on the road is in the billions. The impact of this disorder on the family, the community, and the individual is immeasurable. A growing body of literature supports an association between religious and spiritual beliefs and behaviors and recovery from alcohol addiction. This project is an investigation of this association. The goal is to offer some clarity on what works in recovery and what does not.


Participants' personal data were collected, including information about their religious beliefs and behaviors, and their relationship with AA and a higher power. Participants completed a survey asking about their choice of a higher power, their perceptions of God/higher power, their religious beliefs and behaviors, and their level of social support. They were asked to answer questions about the length of time they had been sober, their satisfaction with life since being sober, and the quality of their lives as a measure of a sense of well-being. MANCOVA was used to analyze the data. This statistical model seemed most appropriate since it allowed the researcher to analyze the impact of the independent variables (types of belief in God or a higher power, perceptions of God/higher power, religious beliefs and behaviors, and social support) on the three dependent variables (length of sobriety, satisfaction with life and quality of life) while controlling for age, gender and level of education.


MANCOVA was used to analyze the data. The results indicated a mixed picture of what works in recovery. Choice of a higher power was not significantly associated with long-term recovery. Perceptions of God/higher power were not significantly associated with long-term recovery. Religious beliefs and behaviors were significantly associated with length of sobriety, which means that participants who scored higher on the Religious Background and Behavior scale also reported longer periods of sobriety. The data showed a strong association between social support and satisfaction with life, quality of life, and length of sobriety. Participants who scored high on social support also reported longer periods of sobriety, higher quality of life, and satisfaction with life.


This study helped to clarify the question of what works in recovery. The results from this study indicate clearly that while believing in a higher power as promoted in AA is an important tradition and an important part of the culture, it is social support that stands out as the most significant variable in recovery. Social support was significantly associated with length of sobriety, with satisfaction with life, and with quality of life. This important finding provides the professionals who work with people in recovery with a clear understanding of what works. Thus, treatment programs can focus their recovery programs on building structures of social support around new members to increase their chances of long-term success.

Subject Area

Alcoholics--Rehabilitation; Alcoholics--Attitudes; Alcoholics--Psycholical aspectsd; Alcoholism--Religious aspects