Publications & Reports

AOD treatment agencies: Does religious affiliation influence service delivery?

McIlwraith F, Kinner SA, Najman JM
QADREC, School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, Australia Centre for Population Health, Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria School of Soc


Introduction and Aims. Religious organisations have been involved in delivering alcohol and other drug (AOD) services since Australian colonial times and are a familiar presence in the AOD sector. However, there is concern in some sectors that AOD services delivered by religious organisations might be influenced by religious ideology, at the expense of evidence-based service provision.

Design and Methods. A national, cross-sectional survey of non-government AOD agencies was undertaken using a mailed questionnaire. All non-government AOD agencies in Australia, providing at least one face-to-face specialist AOD service, were invited to participate. Agency goals and activities were assessed using the Drug and Alcohol Program Treatment Inventory, which has eight distinct treatment orientations: 12-step, therapeutic community, cognitive behavioural therapy, psychodynamic, family, rehabilitation, dual diagnosis and medical.

Results. There was a high degree of uniformity in treatment orientations with religiously affiliated agencies having similar goals and activities to non-religiously affiliated agencies. Cognitive behavioural therapy was most commonly provided and 12-step the least provided. Religiously affiliated agencies were significantly more likely to favour the 12-step orientation in both goals and activities.

Discussion and Conclusions. Concerns that the religious affiliation of non-government organisations might influence AOD service delivery in Australia appear to be overstated. Factors contributing to the observed uniformity of care may include a more strategic, federal approach; and an increasing emphasis on best practice within the sector. The lack of discernable differentiation between religiously affiliated and non-religiously affiliated non-government organisations may also be attributable to changes in the way services are delivered by many religious organisations.


  • Journal: Drug and Alcohol Review
  • Published: 05/01/2011
  • Volume: 30
  • Issue: 6
  • Pagination: 664-670