What is a Holistic Addiction Treatment Approach?

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A holistic approach believes that every part of a person is interconnected. Therefore each system of the body affects all the others. Holistic treatment focuses on treating the whole person, taking physical, mental, social, and sometimes spiritual factors into account.

Holistic treatment is composed of non-medicinal and non-traditional therapies. Many addiction rehab facilities integrate holistic therapies into their traditional recovery programs because they have proven to be effective.

Holistic Addiction Treatment Programs

Holistic treatment programs use natural methods to focus on all aspects of a person’s health. Your physical and mental health are linked. Holistic therapies focus on finding the source problems that led to your addictions, rather than just treating the symptoms.

Traditional substance abuse treatment programs focus on counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step programs, and peer support. Holistic programs complement these approaches and help patients focus on understanding and improving their well-being. 

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Therapies Used in a Holistic Approach

The therapies used in holistic drug rehab programs aim to help individuals achieve overall health by improving all aspects of their well-being. These treatments often are tailored to the individual who is undergoing addiction recovery.

There are many different holistic treatment methods used to treat substance use disorders. Here are some of the most common alternative therapies that rehab centers in the United States and around the world use:

Meditation

Meditation is a mindfulness practice that focuses on relaxing the mind and body. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and problems sleeping. Many people in recovery suffer from these problems, which makes meditation a useful aid.

Art Therapy

Some treatment facilities utilize art therapy to encourage self-expression through painting, drawing, and other acts of artistic creation. Art therapy helps confront emotional conflict, practice behavior management, increase awareness, gain social skills, and can even reduce anxiety and boost self-esteem.

Music Therapy

Music therapists will have patients listen to, dance to, sing, or write their own music. The types of activities and song selections will be based on the individual or group if it is a group therapy session. Music therapy can reduce muscle tension and anxiety. It helps encourage openness in personal relationships. For some people who have trouble expressing themselves, music can act as a translator.

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy involves patients interacting with animals. Equine therapy is a popular form where patients learn to ride, take care of, and "communicate" with horses. It is also common for groups or individuals to volunteer at animal shelters. Research shows that this can improve patients' willingness to participate and open up and share their past.

Horticulture Therapy 

Horticulture therapy uses plants and gardening to improve mental and physical health. It has been shown to improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, and socialization skills. 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine practice from China that involves placing thin needles at various points in the body to stimulate healing. This may be especially useful during detoxification, as it can soften withdrawal symptoms and decrease cravings brought on by detox.

Yoga

Yoga is a popular therapy because it combines mindfulness with physical activity. Yoga uses breathing techniques, body postures, and meditation to improve your health. It can relieve stress and anxiety and helps patients practice coping mechanisms.

Nutrition Therapy

Nutrition therapy is used in many treatment programs. Maintaining or adopting a healthy diet can improve both your mental and physical health. It is especially important during and following detox, as your body will go through significant changes.

Massage Therapy

The path to recovery involves major changes in your mind and body. Many people experience high levels of stress and pain due to physical symptoms of recovery. Massage therapy can help relieve pain and stress.

Prayer

Some holistic treatment programs will utilize prayer to augment addiction recovery. Prayer can increase self-awareness, decrease stress, and contribute a sense of optimism.

Fitness and Health

Exercise can help relieve depression and anxiety symptoms, which sometimes lead to substance abuse issues. Exercise can also work as a relapse prevention tool by increasing feel-good chemicals in the brain. These chemicals can decrease when you abuse drugs or alcohol.

Exercise also adds structure and routine to your daily schedule, which is especially beneficial during early recovery.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive treatment that enables a computer to read your brainwaves through electroencephalography (EEG). These signals can help you understand areas of irregularity or distress. The treatment can help ease symptoms of addiction, trauma, and mental health.

Benefits of Holistic Treatment

There are several reasons people may benefit from holistic treatment plans, including:

  • Traditional methods didn’t work before
  • They are nervous or scared by traditional procedures
  • Holistic treatment attempts to uncover the reason for their addiction
  • They will develop skills and resources needed to maintain their recovery
  • They will become more mindful and healthy in all areas of their life

Is Holistic Treatment Effective?

Research shows that holistic therapies can increase the likelihood of drug addiction recovery when combined with traditional methods, though there is little conclusive evidence available. 

More research is needed to prove the effectiveness of the holistic approach to addiction treatment. However, it has been shown that these alternative treatments can enhance an addiction treatment center’s programs and increase an individual’s chances of recovery.

Is Holistic Treatment Right for You?

Holistic drug rehabs and traditional programs both use individual or group therapies when treating substance addiction. Therapy helps you understand and assess the underlying problems that led to substance abuse, which is essential to long-term recovery.

Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are well-known for shifting negative thought patterns and behaviors. Research-based therapies like CBT exist in both traditional and holistic drug rehab treatments.

The key difference is that holistic recovery approaches also involve alternative treatments. These treatments can help you approach your substance issues from other angles. Alternative therapies can also help you heal some of the physical and spiritual effects of addiction.

Holistic recovery treatments can be an effective complement to the work you are doing in traditional addiction treatment approaches.

How to Find a Holistic Treatment Center

Many facilities have holistic treatment options available. To find out if a rehab center utilizes holistic therapies, contact their admissions department. They will provide information on their treatment approach and all the complementary therapies offered.

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Resources +

Aletraris, Lydia et al. “The use of art and music therapy in substance abuse treatment programs.” Journal of addictions nursing vol. 25,4 (2014): 190-6. doi:10.1097/JAN.0000000000000048, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268880/

Breslin, Kathy T et al. “An holistic approach to substance abuse treatment.” Journal of psychoactive drugs vol. 35,2 (2003): 247-51. doi:10.1080/02791072.2003.10400006, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12924747/

Carim-Todd, Laura et al. “Mind-body practices: an alternative, drug-free treatment for smoking cessation? A systematic review of the literature.” Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 132,3 (2013): 399-410. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.04.014, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770754/

Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EMS, et al. Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24395196/

Kuppili, Pooja Patnaik et al. “Role of Yoga in Management of Substance-use Disorders: A Narrative Review.” Journal of neurosciences in rural practice vol. 9,1 (2018): 117-122. doi:10.4103/jnrp.jnrp_243_17, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5812135/

Motlagh, Farid Esmaeili et al. “Acupuncture therapy for drug addiction.” Chinese medicine vol. 11 16. 5 Apr. 2016, doi:10.1186/s13020-016-0088-7, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822281/

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