Dear Beloved Fathers in Christ,

Alcohol and drug abuse are powerful addictions, insulating the addict from the challenges in their life that will help them to grow, to connect with others, and to tap their God-given gifts. The parish priest is often the first to know when an active member of his parish is addicted to alcohol or has moved on to other “gateway” drugs or additional dependences such as gambling or promiscuity. Clergy who have parishioners struggling with addiction know that often alcohol and drug addiction are symptomatic of emotional turmoil, financial instability, family crisis, chemical imbalance, or other underlying issues.

We can benefit by incorporating additional course work in substance abuse counseling, mental health instruction, and referral/resource skills into our Orthodox Seminary education.  The Healthy Youth Initiative offers Local Deaneries a means to supplemental pastoral counseling resources and seminars. Deaneries may bring in Substance Prevention Specialists to teach the community clergy about strategies and resources to help drug addicted parishioners, the homeless, and underage youth who use and abuse alcohol and drugs.  Addiction not only leads to disease but prevents the addicted person from appropriately filling their spiritual emptiness with their gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Orthodox Christians have the right to take a Christ-driven and Christ-centered road to recovery. Faith-based counseling puts the presence and power of Jesus Christ into overcoming addiction through prayer, fasting, worship, witness, and service to others, and greatly enhances professional therapeutic steps to recovery.

In Christ’s Service,

Khouriyee Kathleen Purpura

OCCHY Executive Director


  • Role of Clergy: The Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on the Person and the Family by Rev. C. Roy Woodruff, Ph.D.
  • Are the Youth in Your Parish at Risk by Smoking the Hookah?
  • The following core competencies are essential for clergy and pastoral ministers to meet the needs of people with alcohol or drug dependence and their family members.

    • Be aware of the generally accepted definition of alcohol and drug dependence and the societal stigma attached to alcohol and drug dependence.
    • Be knowledgeable about the signs of alcohol and drug dependence, characteristics of withdrawal, effects on the individual and the family, and characteristics of the stages of recovery.
    • Be aware that possible indicators of the disease may include, among others, marital conflict, family violence (physical, emotional, and verbal), suicide, hospitalization, or encounters with the criminal justice system.
    • Understand that addiction erodes and blocks religious and spiritual development, and be able to communicate effectively the importance of spirituality and the practice of religion in recovery, using the scripture, traditions, and rituals of the faith community.
    • Be aware of the potential benefits of early intervention to the addicted person, family system, and affected children.
    • Be aware of appropriate pastoral interactions with the addicted person, family system, and affected children.
    • Be able to communicate and sustain an appropriate level of concern and messages of hope and caring.
    • Be familiar with and utilize available community resources to ensure a continuum of care for the addicted person, family system, and affected children.
    • Have a general knowledge of and, where possible, exposure to the 12-step programs—Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Alateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and other groups.
    • Be able to acknowledge and address values, issues, and attitudes regarding alcohol and drug use and dependence in oneself and one’s own family.
    • Be able to shape, form, and educate a caring congregation that welcomes and supports persons and families affected by alcohol and drug dependence.
    • Be aware of how prevention strategies can benefit the larger community.

    Core Competencies for Clergy and Other Pastoral Ministers in Addressing Alcohol and Drug Dependence and the Impact on Family Members is available in print from SAMHSA‘s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at P.O. Box 2345, Rockville, MD 20847-2345. Telephone: 1 (800) 729-6686 (English and Spanish) or 1 (800) 487-4889 (TDD).

Spiritual Caregiving to Help Addicted Persons and Families Handbook For Use by Pastoral Counselors in Clergy Education

This recently updated handbook — created by NACoA’s Clergy Education and Training Project® for SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, provides some basic information on alcoholism and addiction, the impact of parental addiction on children, facts about adolescent alcohol and drug use, and prevention strategies. It also has an appendix with handouts for use with children of alcohol and drug dependent parents. You can the handbook. NACoA’s on-line course, Preventing Alcohol and Drug Problems: A Course for Clergy, is based on this handbook.

Clergy Competencies in Alcohol and other Drug Treatment – SAMHSA Releases Guide for Clergy