The term “holistic treatment” covers a wide range of options for treating an even wider range of medical conditions. Regarding substance abuse and addiction, specifically, it is best to include holistic methods alongside medical treatment to treat the whole person: that is, the mind, body, and spirit. These treatment methods can help curb withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, help manage mental health conditions and difficult emotions, and enhance physical and mental well-being when they work together.
While there are many effective treatments for addiction, it’s rare to only use one type at a time. Treatments that focus on mental, physical, and emotional well-being complement each other. Implementing holistic treatment methods into a substance use treatment plan can help improve overall well-being in the recovery journey.
What Holistic Addiction Recovery Is and Does
Holistic approaches and treatment methods in the field of addiction recovery are increasingly popular. Generally speaking, holistic treatment is an umbrella term that refers to a treatment plan that focuses on the whole person: physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. This is especially important for people with co-occurring disorders alongside addiction, such as depression or anxiety. A treatment approach that focuses on just drug abuse treatment, but not the mental or emotional causes underneath it, won’t result in successful sobriety. The holistic approach acknowledges the importance of emotional well-being as a complement to physical health.
Not all treatment approaches have to be separate, with physical treatment addressed one day, and mental or emotional therapy addressed at a different time. Ideally, they should work together, combining elements in one treatment center. Today, many addiction treatment centers are starting to understand the prevalence of mental health issues along with substance abuse. There is a growing amount of evidence-based research that shows how treating addiction without treating mental health is ineffective at best, harmful at worst. Therefore, you are more likely to see addiction specialists recommending holistic practices, such as exercise, healthy eating, and mindfulness techniques, in addition to counseling, or as part of in-house rehabilitation treatment.
Is Holistic Treatment Evidence-Based?
Holistic therapies are not a substitute for medical treatment. However, when practiced with physical forms of therapy, holistic treatment has a high success rate. Many people report a decrease in anxiety and depression, along with a renewed sense of self, after practicing various forms of holistic therapy.
All forms of addiction treatment that focus on mental and physical health can complement each other when they are guided by addiction specialists. For example, holistic treatment methods such as medication and yoga can be paired with evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, which work together to reduce cravings and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Together, these treatments work to reduce the chance of relapsing.
Why Holistic Treatment Is Effective
It’s common to think of addiction as strictly a physical problem. The reality is that addiction involves the whole person. Considering the number of people who turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping or “escaping” undiagnosed mental health disorders or traumas, it’s safe to say that addiction is a whole-person problem. Holistic treatment methods take that whole person approach by blending traditional, experiential, and even spiritual-based therapies into the recovery process. The types of treatments will depend on the needs and preferences of the patient. Some patients may respond best to yoga and medical treatment, while others may require antidepressants, yoga, and in-patient care.
Different Types of Holistic Treatments for Substance Abuse
There are many types of treatments to choose from, but the most common holistic treatments tend to be:
Yoga is more than exercise. The accompanying philosophies help reduce anxiety and are kinder to your body in general. It also helps to focus on breathing exercises, which in turn help to calm emotions, thus reducing the chance of relapse.
Meditation and Mindfulness
Similar to yoga, meditation and mindfulness involve focusing on the present moment, helping to prevent being overwhelmed by distracting emotions. You can do this while sitting down, doing yoga poses, or walking through nature. In addition to focusing on the present, you’ll want to focus on your breath, incorporating deep inhales and exhalations, which reduces stress. This can be a guided process or self-guided. It is recommended as a form of coping with triggers that used to enable substance abuse.
Fitness and Exercise
Exercise releases endorphins, or brain chemicals that produce a natural high that can help you feel happier without having to use drugs. Because these chemicals are depleted with regular substance abuse, exercise re-trains the body and mind to feel happy in a natural way. People who exercise regularly for just 20 to 30 minutes a day tend to report feeling happier in the long run.
Additional Holistic Treatments for Substance Abuse Recovery
The above treatments and practices are the most common, but they are not the only options. Other holistic treatments for substance abuse may include:
- Art therapy: Different forms of art, such as sculpting or painting, can help people work through the difficult emotions or traumas that enabled drug use
- Massage therapy: Massage therapy boosts feelings of calm and relaxation and improves mood while addressing physical pain in the body
- Aromatherapy: Certain scents, such as lavender, can help cultivate calmness and relaxation, as well as help improve sleep