What is Celebrate Recovery?
Celebrate Recovery is a specifically Christian 12-step program designed to offer relief from “hurts, hangups, and habits.” The program began in 1991 as a way to help people struggling with addiction or codependency. Since then, its scope has expanded and there are now meetings in churches all over the United States. According to the Celebrate Recovery website, there are now 35,000 Celebrate Recovery churches around the world. The program is modeled on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and on eight principles based on Jesus’s Beatitudes. These are basically a restatement of the 12 steps in New Testament terms. For example, the third principle, corresponding to AA’s “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood him,” becomes “Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. ‘Happy are the meek.’ Matthew 5:5.” The Celebrate Recovery program is “based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory.” The group guidelines are also very similar to AA, emphasizing sharing without crosstalk, offering support over giving advice, maintaining anonymity and confidentiality, and maintaining a respectful environment. Unlike AA and other 12-step groups, groups meeting under the name of Celebrate Recovery are required to follow a standardized format and are forbidden to use materials other than the Bible and authorized Celebrate Recovery curriculum materials. Curriculum materials are primarily written by Celebrate Recovery founder, John Baker. Meeting are led by trained group facilitators. In addition to regular group meetings, members with the same problem are encouraged to form smaller groups. The members of the group act as each others’ “Accountability Partners,” keeping each other on track and away from temptation. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the effectiveness of Celebrate Recovery has not been well studied. One small study found that Celebrate Recovery members with a spirituality score felt more confident in their ability to resist using substances. Aside from that, outcomes are likely similar to that of other 12-step programs, which have been found to be very effective or moderately effective for about two thirds of people struggling with addiction. Since one of the most important factors in the effectiveness of 12-step programs appears to be participating in a strong sober network, that effect likely applies to Celebrate Recovery as well. In an effort to be more inclusive, 12-step programs have shifted toward being less faith-based in recent years, to the chagrin of some segments of the 12-step community. More people want or need the help of a recovery community, but are unwilling or unable to embrace a literal notion of a higher power. However, for some people, Christian faith may be an important element in their recovery, so those people might prefer an overtly Christian program like Celebrate Recovery.