Holistic treatment is an increasingly available option for a wide range of illnesses. Holistic treatment incorporates traditional and evidence-based, alternative therapies to heal the entire person including the mind, body, and spirit. The goal of holistic addiction treatment is to complement traditional treatment modalities and heal the underlying issues that cause addiction and mental health disorders. When you combine holistic treatments with traditional medicine and psychotherapy, it is known as an integrative approach.
What is holistic addiction treatment?
A holistic approach to treating those addicted to drugs or alcohol takes the whole person into account. The goal is to heal the entire person and secure good health for the mind, body, and spirit. Holistic programs treat more than the physical symptoms of addiction. Treatment approaches include a plan to improve the physical, emotional and mental health of the individual.
In addition to traditional forms of medicinal, individual, and group therapies, a holistic approach to addiction treatment includes other evidence-based therapies such as diet, exercise, art, music or other experiential therapies. Newer techniques such as experiential therapies, art or music therapy, or equine-assisted psychotherapy may be implemented. Eastern or other forms of complementary and alternative medicine are often incorporated.
What constitutes an alternative therapy?
More than a third of American adults use some form of holistic therapy to improve their health. Some examples of commonly applied holistic or alternative therapy modalities include:
- Biofeedback is a series of techniques that allow the person to control bodily functions that are normally involuntary such as breathing and heart rate. Biofeedback can be used to reduce the symptoms of drug withdrawal.
- Neurofeedback is used to reduce cravings and permit the individual to regain brain control lost to substance abuse.
- Massage therapy supports healing through relaxation and the reduction of stress. It can also reduce physical pain.
- Stretching aids in pain and stress release and can also enhance relaxation.
- Acupuncture enhances the body’s own healing mechanisms and reduces pain and stress.
- Yoga and meditation, two aspects of Ayurvedic medicine nurture a singular mind, body and spirit.
- Reiki and other forms of energy work assist in physical healing and increase relaxation which can reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.
- Tai Chi offers benefits similar to that of yoga and can be thought of as “moving meditation,” allowing the individual to better reach their true self.
- Breath work
- Herbal therapy – herbal supplements can support healthy nutrition, assist with detoxification, and reduce unhealthy cravings.
- Guided imagery, a form of hypnotherapy, improves a person’s emotional state through the use of visualization. This process reduces pain and anxiety, as well as helping patients sleep better at night.
- Chiropractic care improves the flow of neurotransmitters to the brain, a process that is impeded by addiction. It can also reduce physical pain that may be an underlying cause of the addiction.
Alternative medicine supports the overall wellbeing of the individual, which in turn supports healing and long-term sobriety. The use of non-traditional therapies supports the healing undertaken during traditional, evidence-based treatment. Holistic therapies support the body’s natural healing abilities.
What types of traditional therapies are included in holistic are?
While each drug or alcohol treatment program is different, any or all of these traditional treatment modalities may be incorporated.
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy sessions
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Motivational interviewing (MI)
- Art and music therapies
- Medical Nutritional Therapy (MNT)
- Regular exercise program
- Equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAT)
- Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
- Family services and involvement
- 12-step support group participation
Why is a holistic approach to addiction treatment so valuable?
Detoxification, eliminating the abused substances from the body, marks just the beginning of the healing process for those seeking addiction treatment. Cravings must be diminished. Damage to the body and brain must heal.
The journey back to a healthy life is complex, and research has shown that success in long-term sobriety is best achieved when the issues that created the addiction are healed. Additionally, new coping mechanisms, life skills, and often social skills must be developed. Effective communication must be reestablished. Holistic treatment addresses all of these areas.
The process of drug addiction always has a cause. To remain sober, the person must either heal the underlying issues or find new coping mechanisms to manage themselves more effectively. Physical pain, stress, anxiety, mental health disorders, poor communication skills, low self-esteem, fear, and loneliness, etc. all contribute to substance addiction. Effective drug rehab helps the individual overcome or develop new ways to deal with their problems. Integrative medicine brings additional resources to healing and sobriety support.
Getting to the root of addiction
Holistic treatment works to uncover and heal the cause of addiction. A non-holistic approach often focuses only on the symptoms of the disorder. Unless the cause of addiction is addressed, and new coping mechanisms learned, relapse is likely.
For example, of the 20.2 million American adults that suffered from a substance abuse disorder in 2014, 7.9 million also suffered from a mental health disorder. This means that 40% of all addicts suffer from mental illness. Research has shown that best odds of leading a sober life require that both illnesses be treated concurrently.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that “recovery from these disorders is a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach full potential.” Holistic substance abuse treatment seeks to accomplish this end.
A highly individualized approach
There is no singular “best” approach to treating alcoholism and drug addiction. Each impacted individual is unique, and the best approach must address the uniqueness of the person. The best holistic addiction treatment programs create personalized treatment plans for all participants.
The person leaving a holistic treatment program is armed with multiple tools to support a healthy body, a clear mind, and a happy life. Holistic addiction treatment enables addicts to reconnect with their inner spirit and spirituality.
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