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Spirituality is sometimes overlooked in the development of adolescents. However, both religious and non-religious spirituality plays a crucial role in a teen’s psychological development. Growing spiritually can provide a teen with a strong foundation for comprehending the relationship between themselves, their mental health, and their well-being. 

At Eagle Overlook Recovery for Adolescents, spiritual development is a critical component in our recovery programs. We encourage all of our patients to incorporate their practices and beliefs to find an approach that’s meaningful to them. 

This guide will discuss spiritual development, the theory behind it, and how we utilize it in our programs. 

What Is Spiritual Development?

Spiritual growth and development aren’t something that happens overnight. It’s a lifelong journey a person experiences as they mature and discover their spirituality, whether religious or non-religious. Spiritual development is vital for a person’s physical and mental well-being. 

What Is Spiritual Development Theory?

James Fowler was a theologian most well known for his research into faith or spiritual development theory. He published the book, Stages of Faith in 1981. His work had a massive impact on pastoral care and religious education in the 1980s and 1990s. 

The framework he created for spiritual development strongly resembles the framework for other parts of human development. He suggests that human spirituality is a fundamental feature of human existence by forming his framework this way. It will develop in predictable ways, just like social or cognitive behavior does. 

Fowler didn’t define faith by one specific religion. He described faith as being the way a person relates to the universe and subsequently creates meaning. In his framework, Fowler proposed seven different spiritual development stages, starting at stage 0. 

Stage Zero 

The Undifferentiated or Primal stage is from birth to two years old. This stage is when a small child learns to rely on the world’s goodness based upon how their parents or caregivers treat them. This stage is similar to that of Erik Erickson’s first stage of psychological development. 

Stage One

The Projective-Intuitive stage is from age three to seven. This is where children start to use their imaginations and symbols.

During this stage, children are highly self-focused. They can take negative ideas about religion, the devil, or evil self-referentially or literally. They’re not able to distinguish reality from fantasy very well.  

Stage Two

From age six to 12, children are in the Mythic-Literal stage. Children start to organize the information they receive into stories. They understand these stories and moral rules concretely and literally. 

They can’t take a step back from a story and come up with an overarching meaning. Fairness and justice are thought to be reciprocal. Some people stay in this stage for the rest of their lives. 

Stage Three

The Synthetic-Conventional stage runs from adolescence to early adulthood. Some individuals will permanently stay in this stage. During this stage, people have their beliefs but haven’t critically examined them. 

Their beliefs are those they’ve been taught and what they see others around them believing in. These individuals have a sense of identity with other members of their group. When someone is in this stage, they’re not open to many questions since questions might be frightening during this point of their spiritual development. 

While in this stage, a person puts a lot of trust in various authority figures. They don’t recognize that they’re operating within a “box” constructed by their belief system. Their beliefs are internalized but haven’t gotten examined yet. 

Stage Four

When a person starts to recognize that they’re in a “box” and begin to look outside of it, that means they’ve shifted into the Individuative-Reflective stage. They start to ask questions and see the problems and contradictions in their beliefs. This can sometimes be a painful stage as they begin to change old ideas or reject them entirely. 

Some individuals will give up on their spirituality at this point. For some, their faith can be strengthened as their beliefs become more personal to them. 

Stage Five

The Conjunctive stage typically happens after mid-life. A person has gone through stage four and has started to let go of the reliance on their rational mind. They’re willing to talk with people of other spiritual backgrounds to find out more information without letting go of their spirituality. 

Stage Six

Not many people reach the Universalizing stage. It’s when an individual sees all of humanity as one enormous brotherhood. They’re able to take self-sacrificing actions to care for everyone because of this view they hold. 

Spiritual Development in Adolescence

There are essential things that happen in each stage of spiritual development by age. During the adolescence to early adulthood stages, they’re going through the transition of looking at their personal beliefs and how they fit in with the world. 

Adolescents start to think about three major issues:

  • Intimacy 
  • Independence 
  • Identity

As they formulate their identity, they’ll start to question their spirituality. They know what they’ve been taught by family members, spiritual leaders, and their parents. Now, they’ll begin to consider what they believe themselves.

How Do Spiritual Development Programs for Teens Help With Recovery?

When a teen is suffering from an addiction problem, they’re being self-centered. They’re also exhibiting self-seeking behaviors.

Parts of their addiction become parts of their personality. They’re fearful and secretive as they beat themselves up with negative self-talk and shame. As a result, they become more isolated and disconnected. 

Focusing on the relationship between themselves and their spirituality will help them overcome their previous behaviors. They can evolve into a healthier and happier person. 

What Are the Main Features of Spirituality?

Each factor of spirituality works together to build up and influence a person’s faith. They can be nurtured to help an individual grow as they head down the path to recovery. 

The main factors of spirituality include:

  • Faith: When you know things will turn out okay
  • Hope: When you believe something will turn out okay
  • Purpose: When you know that you’re here for a reason
  • Meaningful Connection: When you have the feeling that you’re part of or linked to something
  • Forgiveness: When you care more about a person, relationship, or yourself more than holding onto something negative 
  • Acceptance: When you know that you don’t have control over everything and you don’t let things like thoughts or beliefs obstruct the vision of your future
  • Sense of Belonging: When you feel a connection between the world and yourself, resulting in your feeling secure as a person that’s valuable to others
  • Community and Relationships: When you are nurturing and feel nurtured by those around you

These features of spirituality are crucial to a teen’s ability to recover from alcohol or drugs. The principles make up the foundation for a long-lasting and healthy recovery. 

At Eagle Overlook Recovery for Adolescents, we use these features as a foundation for a 12-Step Framework for our patients. This provides them with an open and positive atmosphere for recovery and spiritual growth. 

Each step in our recovery process corresponds to a different spiritual principle. Some of these principles include:

  • Service
  • Perseverance
  • Brotherly love
  • Gratitude 

Whether it’s religious or non-religious, we work with our patients to get in touch with their spirituality and find meaning. 

Different Ways to Experience Spiritual Growth

The spiritual growth process is unique to each person. There’s no clear path to spiritual development. Below are some of the ways we encourage our patients to explore their spirituality:

  • Pray
  • Yoga
  • Meditate 
  • Time in nature
  • Quiet reflection 
  • Journaling
  • Volunteering
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Spiritual goal-setting 

As our patients work through the spiritual development program, they shed their negative views, belief systems, thoughts, and feelings. They’ll reach new heights of peace, contentment, meaning, and optimism. 

The Benefits of Spiritual Growth in Teen Recovery

Addiction can cripple a person’s purpose and sense of value. When teens tap into their spirituality, they turn their focus from negative things and look at the world around them. Their energy will get renewed, and they can face the hardships around them. 

When teens practice their spirituality, they can heal from their past mistakes. Forgiveness and reconnecting with other people are a big part of the process. 

Spirituality will also give teens strength as they go through difficult times. The beginning stages of recovery are emotionally and mentally exhausting. Spirituality can provide stability to a person while they go through the difficult parts. 

One thing a teen might explore during their spiritual development is gratitude. As they do that, they’ll start to feel more grateful for their lives. This helps them remain focused on the helpful and positive things in their vlies. 

Contact Eagle Overlook for Spiritual Development for Teens in Georgia

Working on their spiritual development will give teens and adolescents a sense of purpose and belonging as they traverse down their road to recovery. Each of the programs we offer is designed to set our patients up for long-term success. 

Contact our office today to learn more about our recovery programs for teens.