Note to the reader: This is the first in a series of 5 blogs about Christian Treatment. This is an area of the website that many people search for. It is not an area where I am an expert. Mark Barrentine, LCSW, owner and operator of a Joint Commission-accredited, small all-girls treatment program in Saint Martinville, LA, , He agreed to write about this for me because these are some of the questions that I had, when I was learning about this specialty.
In 2022 many families that are seeking residential treatment have arrived at a crossroads. They recognize that outpatient attempts toward change simply don’t work anymore. Sadly, the failure of those attempts can create a crisis of hope. Families in this position acknowledge a major reset is needed.
People frequently turn to the Christian religion and their church community for help with such matters. After all, Christianity offers an inspirational message of hope, renewal, forgiveness and of life-transformation. Why not seek all that the Christian religion has to offer within a residential treatment experience as well?
This article is the first of a five-part series exploring the question “Why not Christian Treatment?” There are some good reasons to use it, and some good reasons not to. This series will provide Christian family a perspective on what is available, and when and how to include their Christian faith in selecting the right residential treatment for their family.
What Does Christian Treatment Even Mean? Sorting Out Types of Faith Based Options
The demand for Christian treatment is not small. A quick Google search will reveal an entire market segment with offerings at all levels of care. One can find a variety of options holding up a Christian banner. Typically, internet marketing in the residential treatment industry is confusing, and Christian treatment marketing efforts are no different. We have to ask; What does Christian treatment even mean?
Christian treatment options can take a lot of different forms. Here is what you need to know to understand what you’re looking at:
- Outpatient Care – In the outpatient marketplace you will find Christian advisors, parent coaches, Christian counselors, and even Christian intensive outpatient options. The American Association of Christian Counselors (aacc.net) has over 40,000 members and over 7,000 attendees at its annual conference; a wide variety of licensed (and unlicensed) outpatient professionals are available on their Find-a-Counselor database.
- Add-On & Track Programs – Within larger residential treatment programs, you will sometimes find the option to choose a “Christian Track” add-on for patients. This track offering is an organized series of elective psychoeducational classes and support groups with a focus on Christian values. Participants in track programs are usually mixed among the general population of the treatment program when not in their religion religious meetings.
- Addiction & Recovery Spirituality – The 12-step model includes an emphasis on a higher power and ecumenical spirituality. This takes many forms within addiction and recovery treatment centers, but frequently Christianity is a center of focus in these settings. Many recovery programs employ chaplains.
- Mission Outreach Programs – These offer a religious experience, Christian discipleship, a structured environment and a community of support. For teens, it can be a formative experience, but there is no clinical treatment model. These programs rely on a transformative religious experience to drive a process of behavioral change. These programs tend to be run by pastors and volunteers or people with ministry credentials and ofteny have no licensed therapy or medication management.
- Christian Residential Treatment Centers (RTC’s) – These centers are licensed and accredited behavioral health programs that function with a Christian focus. They offer clinical care with professional licensed therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists within a community of Christian support. All these services are provided within the context of a Christian peer culture and general Christian values.
Parents have to be very careful to discern which type of program they are looking into and how it fits their needs. Of equal importance, one has to know what the Christian option can and cannot accomplish. So, how does one choose?
Episode 2 – Pros and Cons: Mission Outreach Programs vs. Christian Residential Treatment
Now that you have a way to classify the options, the next installment of this series will further distinguish between mission outreach and Christian residential treatment models.
Episode 3 – Choosing the Right Fit Within Christian Treatment Options
This episode will give parents the tools to decide what level of care and what Christian treatment approach they should consider.
Episode 4 – Mental Illness and Spirituality- What Parents Must Know
Without delving into theological arguments, , practical considerations for the question of mental illness and what Christian programming can and cannot accomplish are outlined.
Episode 5 – Acuity and the Relevance of Christian Values
In this series conclusion, acuity is defined and a framework for understanding where and how Christian values come into consideration for behavioral change is explained.
About the Author
Mark Barrentine, LCSW, established Evangelhouse in 1999 as a therapeutic boarding school to serve families with clinical excellence in an inspirational Christian environment. Outside of his Executive Director role at Evangelhouse, Mark is known as a private-treatment industry expert, author, teen career advisor and therapeutic consultant. Above all, Mark loves to walk with families through a process of change to see their teen thrive, and he has done so with hundreds of clients over his 25-year professional career. To learn more about Mark and the pioneering work of Evangelhouse, visit his backstory page.