What Is a Holistic Addiction Treatment Program?

Holistic addiction treatment focuses on a person’s body, mind, and spirit to help them recover from addiction. The goal is to achieve overall well-being, while also treating specific addiction symptoms. 

For most people, addiction is about more than just their body’s physical craving for the drug. Things in a person’s environment, as well as his or her mental and physical health play a major role in addiction. 

Holistic treatment aims to:

  • Reduce the appeal of the substance
  • Strengthen a person’s resistance
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Boost self-confidence
  • Improve a person’s social environment
aftercare

Benefits of Holistic Treatment for Substance Abuse

The greatest benefit of holistic treatment for substance abuse is the fact that it treats the entire person, not just the addiction. People battling addiction combine multiple holistic therapies, often with traditional therapeutic methods, to create a comprehensive care plan. 

Holistic therapies can be divided into five different categories, of which there might be overlap, including:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Nutrition
  • Environment

Holistic therapy might not work, but that’s the case with all treatment. It helps to have an open mind about using holistic therapies, but it isn’t necessary they whole-heartedly believe the therapy will work. 

Many people begin using a holistic method unsure of how effective it will be, only to learn that it plays a significant role in their recovery. These therapies tend to be most effective when used in combination with traditional approaches. 

The key to successfully using holistic therapy is that a person must be willing to change his or her lifestyle.

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Therapies Used in Holistic Treatment

There are several different holistic therapies, including:

Art Therapy

Art therapy has been in use in addiction treatment since the 1940s. Those using art therapy in their recovery process use a variety of media, including:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Sculpture
  • Collage

The goal is to understand one’s addiction better through creative expression.

Music Therapy

Music therapy utilizes music to help a person understand his or her addiction. It’s known to be especially helpful for those with co-occurring disorders, including depression. Listening to and playing music is a very emotional experience for many people and these emotions can reveal important information about a person’s challenges with addiction and mental health.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy offers many benefits in treating addiction. It decreases anxiety and makes substance use triggers more manageable. It stimulates the lymph system, speeding detox, and reducing cravings. And because it involves human touch, many people feel comforted by massage.

Animal Therapy

Animal therapy is popular for treating a variety of health issues, including alcohol and drug addiction. Many convention psychotherapists have begun to incorporate therapy animals into their practices. Interacting with a therapy animal during addiction treatment tends to improve the therapeutic environment, reduces anxiety, and improves the relationship between counselor and patient.

Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture therapy uses gardening to promote health and well-being. Practices range from simply spending time in the garden and outdoors to tending a garden. Gardens stimulate all five senses and gardening boosts self-esteem and reduces stress.

Meditation

Mediation is one of the best relaxation tools in existence and it can be useful for overcoming addiction. Practitioners have found it helps them resist cravings and avoid relapse. It pairs well with a variety of other conventional and holistic treatments. During meditation, a person recognizes his or her cravings and addresses them before they become overwhelming.

Praying

Prayer works similarly to meditation but has an added component of the person finding or restoring a relationship with a higher power. Many have found this to be extremely helpful when dealing with addiction. 

Prayer offers relief from anxiety and fear, allows someone to feel balanced in mind and spirit, and can help someone experience feelings of joy and peace. Prayer eases symptoms of depression and anxiety and has been shown to reduce the risk for relapse.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses the belief that the body possesses meridian points and stimulating these points encourages self-healing. Those who have used acupuncture to treat addiction have found it:

  • Reduces cravings
  • Eases unpleasant withdrawal symptoms
  • Helps with regulating emotions
  • Eases physical pain
  • Soothes anxiety
  • Regulates sleeping patterns

Researchers are not sure exactly how it works, but it is believed that one of the reasons it is effective is because it decreases dopamine levels when drugs are used, rendering substance abuse less enjoyable.

Yoga

Yoga treats a variety of mental and physical health issues, such as depression and anxiety. This includes addiction and common co-occurring disorders. Yoga reduces pain, alleviates stress and anxiety, and prevents insomnia, all of which contribute to cravings and risk of relapse.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that involves sequences of slow, controlled movements and deep breathing. It offers many emotional and physical benefits, including decreased anxiety and depression. Many believe it is more effective for recovery than other forms of exercise or meditation because it combines the two. 

One theory as to why Tai Chi works is that it dislodges the toxic debris that accumulates in the body’s tissue after drug and alcohol use. The activity stimulates the lymph system, which speeds the detoxification process.

mental health

How Effective Is The Holistic Approach to Addiction Treatment?

Holistic addiction treatment is effective, especially when used in combination with traditional therapies. Many mainstream rehabilitation programs incorporate holistic approaches into treatment practices.

lying in nursing home

Types of Rehabs & Treatment Centers 

There are many different types of rehab and treatment centers that employ holistic addiction treatment. The key to a successful recovery is to find a program that is tailored to your specific needs. It’s also important to realize that even if you’ve undergone treatment and relapsed, it doesn’t mean there is no hope for recovery.

Using a holistic program can be the key to successful recovery because it helps you transition to a healthier lifestyle overall. Holistic treatment is doing more than just helping you detox or stop cravings – it is treating all aspects of who you are as a person.

Resources

Lin, Jaung-Geng, et al. “Acupuncture for the Treatment of Opiate Addiction.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, 2012, pp. 1–10, 10.1155/2012/739045. 

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Principles of Effective Treatment.” Drugabuse.Gov, 2018, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

“Addiction Rehabilitation: Addiction Rehabilitation and Tai Chi, Qigong.” Worldtaichiday.Org, 2013, www.worldtaichiday.org/medical/addiction.rehab.html

La Plante, Clare. “Massage and Addiction | Massage Therapy Journal.” Www.Amtamassage.Org, 1 Mar. 2013, www.amtamassage.org/publications/massage-therapy-journal/massage-and-addiction/.

Updated on: September 22, 2020
Author
Alcohol Rehab Help Writing Staff
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Medically Reviewed: July 7, 2020
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice. For more information read out about us.
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