Science in Christian Perspective



Heroin Addiction: Teen Challenge vs. Transactional Analysis: A Statistical Study
California State College 
Dominguez Hills, California 90747

From: JASA 25 (September 1973): 106-110.

Heroin addiction was viewed from the standpoint of treatment outcome. Seventeen subjects were randomly assigned to each of three treatment regimes: No Treatment (NT), Teen Challenge (TC), or Transactional Analysis (TA), with the subjects in the last two groups being under treatment 6 to 12 months. The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether these approaches had a differential effect on heroin addiction. A score on a standardized questionnaire and recidivism (returning to heroin) rates, measured over a 29 month period, were used a an index of the effectiveness of each treatment. Both TC and TA treatments were statistically significant over NT. While the TC subjects displayed a lower score on the questionnaire, and therefore less drug addiction identification during this period and as measured by the index, TA had a one-hundred percent lower recidivism rate suggesting that TA may get at the etiology and root causes which allowed the addict to become addicted with slower, but longer-lasting effectiveness.


Seevers (1962) has suggested that addiction is characterized by an (a) overpowering desire to continue to take the drug, (b) a tendency to increase the dosage, (c) psychological and physiological dependence on the drug, and (d) detrimental effects both to society and the individual. Addiction differs from drug habituation, for in habituation there is (a) a desire but not a compulsion to continue taking drugs, (h) little tendency to increase the dosage, (c) some psychological but no physiological dependency, and (d) any detrimental consequences primarily affect the individual.

Lieberman (1967) in his discussion on current trends in rehabilitation of drug addicts, adheres to the belief that an outmoded typology of treatment has employed punitive and medicalpsychiatric methods, which to some have been viewed as a gross failure (O'Donnell, 1964). Lieberman (1967) suggests that five themes of rehabilitation have emerged over the last decades: (1) communal, resembling the homogeneity of the folk culture with strong roots in face-to-face interaction; (2) community interaction, involving the interaction of the addict with his given community; (3) religious, providing an intense religious experience for those willing to be saved, who are then expected to return to the community and become involved in the salvation of other addicts (Wilkerson, 1963; Teen Challenge, Inc.); (4) rational authority, placing the addict on probation, if convicted of a crime, rather than send him to prison; and (5) chemotherapy, such as cyclazocine or methadone maintenance (Jaffe, 1966; Dole and Nyswander, 1965). Lieherman (1967) in conclusion adrnonishes us of the need for combined approaches and selectivity in treatment.
The present author is concerned with out-come research in heroin addiction. He has elected to study two approaches: Teen Challenge (TC) and Transactional Analysis (TA). The purpose of the experiment is to determine whether one of these approaches has a differential effect on the treatment of heroin addicts.

Therapeutic Techniques

Redlich and Freeman (1966) suggest that conventional therapeutic techniques, strictly speaking, refer to biological and psychosocial methods of treatment based on scientific evidence, which by definition excludes unscientific beliefs, magic, supernatural forces, and commonsense. These two authors suggest a classification of therapies based on phenomenological description of treatment or on a differentiation of underlying principles and theories. The most fundamental differences can he seen between: (1) somatic therapies, involving organic and biological therapies employing various chemicals and hormones; and (2) psychosocial therapies which use verbal, symbolic and behavioral methods that influence the total behavior of the patient and his social performance. The technique must be based on some scientific rationale. The psychotherapies can be divided into analytic-insight, directive-suppressive, and behavior-modification. The two authors believe "all therapies involve support and direction as well as learning." The behavior therapies are usually individualized involving a relationship in which conditioning theory and techniques are employed. The psychotherapies may he fuller subdivided into individual and group, with the latter including milieu and communal. The authors warn: "habits that are learned can be unlearned, or at least not employed. Psychotherapists should not lose sight of the fact that there are many human problems that are determined by economic, social, cultural, and legal processes, which essentially are not accessible to psychotherapy."

James (1959) distinguishes between two types of conversions. The first he calls "volitional" conversion, where the change is on a predominantly conscious and rational or intellectual level. Calverton (1934) labels this type of conversion "the logical" or "intellectual" approach to religion. The second type of conversion James (1958) mentions is the "self-surrender" where the personal will must be abandoned. The conscious aspects of conversion according to James (1958) are predominantly two things: first, there is a feeling of incompleteness and wrongness ("sin"), and second, an imagined ideal that is desired for the self. Basically, these are not so different from the self-concept (a desire to be whole and good) and the concept of the ego-ideal. Interestingly enough, the sense of incompleteness according to Calverton (1934) did not exist in the group-centered society but is a dominant characteristic of the individualistic centered society.

Knight (1969) believes that:

The religious area appeals to youth as a medium for orienting themselves, and their involvement in this area often reflects their attempt to establish themselves as individuals with their own identity and personal set of values. The adolescent, as a part of his movement toward independence, feels constrained to examine, challenge and reconstruct the religious beliefs given him by his family.

Teen Challenge

Teen Challenge uses the Christian conversion as a pivot point for their milieu therapy. A leading evangelical authority on conversion has said (Graham, 1965):

The word "conversion" means simple "turning." God pleads with man to return to Him. However, it is impossible for man to return to God, to repent, or even believe, without God's help. All one can do is call upon God to "turn one" to Him. There are at least two elements in conversion repentance and faith. Repentance carries a recognition of sin involving personal guilt and defilement before God. Repentance means also a change of feeling. This means genuine sorrow for sins committed against God. Faith is not just hanging on. It is laying hold of Christ, for Christ is the object of faith. It is not a subjective feeling, but an objective act.

The purpose of the experiment is to determine whether one of these approaches (Teen Challenge and Transactional Analysis) has a differential effect on the treatment of heroin addicts.

  James (1958) believes "we tend to speak of the conversion phenomenon, and wonder at it as a transformation," However, for the many members of TC, most of whom have been in jail or prison, the traditional psychotherapies of the social and insight orientation have seldom provided any real freedom from drug usage. What does seem to work for TC members is their confrontation with Christ in their individual conversion. This conversion together with their daily group process of Bible study, prayer, song and working on the streets, in schools and half way houses with other addicts is said to aid the addict on this program to become drug free and a useful member of society. One youth put it this way:

A 19 year old parolee, dope fiend, factory worker does not make ripples. I did not have any worth. Today, I am free and clean. This freedom is in Christ. It is a freedom with a purpose to help someone else be set free.

Lieherman (1967) believes TC members, like missionaries, devote their lives to carrying out their religious theme. He asserts that TC has many of the same elements as Alcoholics Anonymous with their missionary zeal in helping the suffering addicts. Lieberman (1967) was "impressed by the apparent power of the conversion in effecting a profound involvement with a new and more socially acceptable style of life,"

Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis according to Harris (1969) is both a teaching and learning device. He suggests that TA works at its best in groups where the more transaction to analysis the better the interaction. It distinguishes three active elements in each person's make-up: the parent, the adult, and the child. The parent personifies the "don'ts" and a few "do's." The child represents spontaneous emotion. Both parent and child must keep in proper relationship to the adult whose function is that of a "reality computer that grinds out decisions based on the data derived from experience." The goal of TA is strengthening and emancipation of the adult from the "archive recordings in the parent and child to make possible freedom of choice and the creation of new options." Harris (1969) explains there are four life positions underlying people's behavior:

(1) I'M NOT OK-YOU'RE OK, which is the anxious dependency of the immature. 
(2) I'M NOT OKYOU'RE NOT OK, showing the "giver-up" or despair position. 
(3) I'M OK YOU'RE NOT OK, indicating the criminal position. 
(4) I'M OK-YOU'RE OK, which is the response of the mature adult, at peace with himself and others,

Harris (1969) concludes that most people still operate unconsciously from the position I'M NOT OKYOU'RE OK.

Berne (1969), the founder of TA, adheres to the position that TA is not a restatement of Freudian, Jungian, or other psychology. Superego, ego, and id are concepts, whereas ego states used in TA are experiential and behavioral realities. Berne (1969) suggests that TA uses only five words in its vocabulary. It will be advantageous to look at several more words to fully comprehend the meaning of TA and the procedure involved. The following are those words which need a working definition supplied by the founder of TA (Berne, 1969):

Transaction: A transaction stimulus plus a transaction response In a complementary transaction, the vectors are parallel. In a crossed transaction they are crossed, An ulterior transaction is effective at two levels, the social and the psychological. An ulterior transaction may he angular involving three ego states, or duplex involving four.
Structural Analysis: Analysis of the personality into its constituent parent, adult, and child ego states.
Game: A series of ulterior transactions with a gimmick, leading to a well-defined pay off.
Script: An unconscious life plan. In some eases it may be preconscious or conscious.
Ego State: A consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior.
Parent: An ego state borrowed from a parental figure. It may exert itself as an indirect influence; or be directly exhibited in parental behavior.
Adult: An ego state oriented toward objective, autonomous data.
Child: An ego state which is an archaic relic from an early significant period of life. The adopted child is influenced by parental parameters. The expressive child is more autonomous.

In view of the above the meaning of Transactional Analysis should now become clearer:

Transactional Analysis: 1. A system of psychotherapy based on the analysis of transactions and chains of transactions as they actually occur during treatment sessions. Its principal phases are structural analysis, transactional analysis proper, game analysis, and script analysis. 2. A theory of personality based on the study of specific ego states, 3. A theory of social action based on rigorous analysis of transactions into an exhaustive but finite number of classes based on the specific ego state involved. 4. The analysis of single transactions by means of transactional diagrams. This is transactional analysis proper.

Harris (1969) suggests how TA group treatment is conducted. The transaction consists of a stimulus by one person and a response by another, which response in turn becomes a new stimulus for the other person to respond to. The purpose of the analysis is to discover which part of each person-parent, adult, or childis originating each stimulus and response. There are many clues to help identify stimulus and responses as parent, adult or child, and with these clues to assist one to begin to identify parent, adult, and child in transactions involving the individual and others.
Although the concepts of the therapeutic community operate to a lesser degree in the TC program because of the lack of funds, than with the TA program, these concepts are important to the author's thesis. The environment at both the TC center and the federal institution provides a 24hours-a-day therapeutic community.

Jones (1968) has described the therapeutic community treatment as sociotherapy and a livingl-earning situation where confrontation with other group members is concerned with everyday behavior. Each individual is helped to become more aware of the thinking and feeling of others often for the first time-and this can contribute to personal growth.

While those subjects on the TC program do not have any conventional therapy sessions, and are even somewhat opposed and outspoken against it, they do have group rap sessions, prayer, Bible study, and they do work with other addicts, all of which is not on video tape, but apparently somewhat successful. Those heroin addicts on the TA program receive group treatment and interaction, video tape replay of the TA sessions, some vocational training, and are aided by "linkers" who are themselves former-addicts going between the authoritarian structure (warden, program directors, employers) and other resident addicts.

Based on the lower questionnaire score when compared to no treatment and the lower recidivism rates, Transactional Analysis is the best regime of treatment for heroin addiction of the three treatments investigated.

The present author employed the term "selectively-admitted" into any one of the following treatment groups to mean: (1) that the individual addict wanted and asked for treatment from either the court or from the program, and (2) that the court or the director or the program was convinced that the addict did desire and could benefit from the form of treatment being given. Once selectively-admitted into one of the two treatment groups or placed on the waiting list forming the no treatment group, the individual was then part of one of three treatment populations from which the author drew his three randomly assigned samples. This was accomplished, for each group, by taking every fifth questionnaire and recording that individual score and entering it into the sample. No one subject was used in more than one treatment condition.

No treatment: Seventeen; heroin-addicted males made up this group. All of these had an arrest record, and all but six had been convicted and sentenced to jail or prison for crimes ranging from assault/robbery (11 years in prison) to narcotics sales smuggling. One subject with a history of 12 narcotics offences had spent four years in prison. None were in prison at this time. Their ages ranged from 18-44. These subjects who were still taking heroin were randomly assigned to this group from a waiting list prior to any therapy and prior admission to the selectively-admitted TC program.

Teen challenge: The all-heroin-addicted subjects for this group were randomly assigned and consisted of 17 males selectively admitted into this program. All had arrest records and twothirds had been convicted of a crime, with the remainder having been placed on probation. Their ages ranged from 18-43. They had been under the "treatment" from 6-12 months living in a therapeutic community.

Transactional Analysis: This heroin-addicted group consisted of 17 male inmates of a specially funded congressional program at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island where they lived in a therapeutic community. Each inmate had been selectively admitted and sentenced, after his court case had been given careful consideration and after the inmate had asked to be placed on this program falling under the Narcotics Addiction Rehabilitation Act (NARA) of 1966. Each inmate had met the qualification of admission to the NARA program in being a heroin user, and having an arrest record directly or indirectly linked to such usage. The subjects had been under treatment 6-12 months and their ages ranged from 21 to 36 years.


In a former study (Johnston, Midtlying, and Ell, 1970) the author and his colleagues created a drug addiction questionnaire which was an instrument to predict whether or not the drug-user would become a drug addict. The score based on that test and recidivism rates became the dependent variables for the present author's study. Each subject was asked to respond to each of the 20 questions in the test with a "yes" or "no" response. One (1) point was assigned to each "yes" response and a score of zero (0) for each "no" response, the test being designed so that a "yes" response indicated drug usage. Those receiving 11 or above were considered drug addicts. From this process it is obvious that the higher the score, out of a total of 20 points possible, the more apparent the addiction involvement.

There were two groups used in normalizing the questionnaire: 96 drug users from among the drug subculture cities of Southern California and 100 heroin addicts under TA group treatment at the Federal Correctional Institute at Terminal Island. (The results for the drug users were: A split-half correlation of .72, a mean of 3.84, the standard deviation of 4.00, standard error of the mean of .40, and a Kuder-Richardson of .81. The last correlation indicates a fairly high degree of homogeneity (Cronbach, 1951). The heroin addict group had a split-hall correlation of .51, with a standard deviation of 4.30 and a standard error of the mean of .44.)

Because of the transitory nature of the drug users group, the authors were unable to secure a test-retest reliability. In view of this and of the fact that drugs were believed generally unavailable, it was decided to employ the heroin addicts group for the test-retest reliability (r=. 35) even though they were under TA group treatment. The 8-10 week test-retest reliability was surprising, for three-fifths of the heroin addicts answered the questionnaire lower and this was believed to be due to the effects of the TA treatment method being used. These findings also provided the hypothesis for the author's present study.


In each treatment condition except no treatment, the author relied on raters who were members of the program being studied to obtain his questionnaire results. Since he entered two on-going groups, he was unable to follow and report on the subjects from day one to the end of the experiment. The methods of treatment have been explained above. In addition to the therapeutic community process of living-learning, each addict, except those in the no treatment group, were under TC group "rap" sessions or transactional analysis for two one-and-a-half hour sessions twice a week. Sometime between the individual's 6th and 12th month of therapy the author obtained his questionnaire results and these were combined with the recidivism rates (returning to heroin) as shown by the records from each treatment condition to make up the two dependent variables. The no treatment group was also given the same questionnaire and the comparative results for all three groups follow.

Duncan-Range Test:
Groups                         TC           TA         NT
Ranked Means      
      n                             2.18         8.82        14.53
     n                                17            17            17
Recidivism Rates             32%         16%         none
   (29 months) 
Difference between                  6.64  (R2 =2.83*
  groups 1 and 3 
Difference between                   5.71  (R3 =2.98*
  groups 1 and 2 
Difference between                  12.35 (R3 = 2.58* 
  groups 2 and 3                       *Significance at 0.05 level       

The Durscan-Range test for two and three groups with 48 degrees of freedom was statistically significant for all three groups. The data as measured by the

It is hoped that some consideration could be given to the incorporation of some psychotherapy, such as Transactional Analysis, into the Teen Challenge program.

criterion, that is the questionnaire results and recidivism rates, give unequivocal support for three findings. First, that TC is an effective program of treatment. Second, TA is a very effective method of treatment. And third, based on the lower questionnaire score when compared to no treatment and the lower recidivism rates, TA is the best regime of treatment for heroin addiction of the three treatments investigated. However, TA is one-hundred per cent lower in recidivism rate, over a 29 month period, than that of TC. Recidivism rates, computed from the TO and TA records and being defined as again returning to drugs, are for TO and TA programs 32% (American Magazine, 1968) and 16% respectively.


The results of the TO and TA programs both seem to be effective and offer hope to the addict and the mental health worker. While it is true that the TO program seems to help the addict increase his self-awareness, it is also true that the approach deals with heroin and other addictions in a repressive manner, i.e., the motivation of the addict had been changed because of his conversion to Christ whom he accepts as his Lord and Master and accordingly views drug-taking as sin. It appears that dealing with heroin addiction in this manner masks the symptoms and etiology, and in doing so does not get at the real causes which led up to the addict becoming addicted to heroin or other drugs. Thus, the addict's belief in Christ, even though sincere and real, becomes a drug substitution which often never grows beyond that little spark of embryonic faith.

From the recidivism rates over the 29 months and the fact that these men on the TA program are successful even after parole, it would suggest that TA operates at a deeper level of the basic personality structure, permitting greater adjustment without drugs as it changes the addiction concept of the self-image more thoroughly and at a slower pace, perhaps accounting for the lower recidivism rates.

Looking at the TO group scores, it seems likely that the approach changes the addiction concept in the addict's self-image rapidly at the point of his conversion, this change being based upon his faith in Christ. It is this continuous and literal working-faith and the "love of Christ which controls" him. However, this suggests too that if the addict does not fervently keep active in the TO program or a church, he may encounter a personal loss of faith-even momentarily which could result in his returning to drug-usage. It seems possible, at least for part of the 32% counted in the TO recidivism rate, that the cure is encased in the legal contractual language-a promise for a promise, "if you will-then I will," i.e., if the addict will be good in responding to the wishes of his heavenly Father, then his cure from addiction is continued. Addicts often have had a rather poor relationship with their earthly fathers. These negative feelings which come about as the result of the poor interpersonal relationship between father and addict could very well be carried over into the matter of their faith in Christ. This loss of faith would occur because the addict had only had a change of environment, conversion, undergone detoxification, and was now beginning to feel better because of regular hours and eating habits, but the root causes which allowed that individual addict to become addicted in the first place had not been acted upon in psychotherapy. This could account for the higher recidivism rates.

Based upon this study, the author suggests there is a real danger in TO's belief in the individual loss of salvation and the great emphasis on works in hieu of psychotherapy, and he would hope some consideration could be given to the incorporation of some psychotherapy, such as TA, into their program. This step hopefully would decrease the recidivism rate and allow some individuals who are at present returning to drugs become in the future drug-free and a useful member of society.


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