A Review of “Grace-Based Recovery” by Jonathan Daugherty

Many approaches to recovery are performance based and can often lead to both a sense of legalism/pride and despair. In Grace-Based Recovery Jonathan Daugherty offers an alternate approach, one rooted in the grace of God towards sinners. There’s much about this work that should be appreciated and commended to all counselors. There is a great strength in a recovery model rooted in grace, but Daugherty’s book lacks the depth needed to guide people out of the bondage of an addiction.

Grace-Based Recovery is designed as a workbook to be utilized in support groups. There are 8 lessons in the book, with an introduction and epilogue to bookend it. Each chapter focuses on a main idea, a Scripture passage, an “article,” which serves as the focused reflection on the main idea, and then a set of discussion questions and a group exercise. The main ideas highlight important themes that aid in recovery, themes like confession, acceptance, repentance, forgiveness, and community. The reflections are thoughtful and engaging, though they are often not detailed enough in application. They also often use Scripture references merely as a proof text, lacking any thorough development off of which to build.

Daugherty makes a compelling case for his premise. He states that in a grace-based recovery model the focus is not on how well individuals adhere to the rules. In this model it is clearly seen that “recovery is more of a gift from God than it is a reward for your good performance” (8). Other models, those that focus on performance, add weight to recovery. “If you don’t measure up to the standards of our program, you will be seen as an even greater failure” (10). Additionally, the focus of these programs is to prevent “acting out,” which is different from transformation. Such “sin management systems,” says Daugherty, fail to bring about real recovery. Daugherty makes a compelling case and presents it well. When he turns, however, to the implementation of grace for change he lacks the depth and detail needed to make a difference.

Take, for example, the issue of heart motives and triggers. While Daugherty recognizes the importance of these issues he never develops a thorough exploration of these issues and guides readers into the process of identifying heart motives. He mentions it, but without any actual guidance and facilitation. Understanding the heart is incredibly difficult, Jeremiah knew this (Jer. 17:9). Daugherty, surely, knows this too, but he offers no real assistance in navigating the heart and discerning the motives. He also discusses very few actual relapse prevention strategies. One whole chapter is devoted to addressing trauma, which Daugherty seems convinced is the underlying cause of every addiction – which seems a major overstatement.

There’s much about the book that is encouraging, compelling, and valuable. Daugherty emphasis on grace offers an important corrective to dominant models. The lack of depth, however, diminishes the value of workbook as a tool to be used in recovery. I would commend the book to counselors as a well-reasoned argument for grace-based approaches to addiction counseling. Alone, however, it will not provide all the tools needed to help an individual enslaved to their addictive habit. Grace-Based Recovery is simply too simplistic in its approach.

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