Are Holistic Therapies Effective in Addiction Recovery?

As our understanding of drug and alcohol addiction has improved, there have been more holistic treatments introduced as a valuable complement to traditional medicine. However, there remains some disagreement on how effective holistic addiction therapies are in terms of achieving long term recovery. Despite this, it is now generally accepted that holistic therapy can have considerable value as part of a structure addiction treatment program.

What Is a Holistic Treatment Program?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, around 35% of American adults use some kind of holistic medicine. This has been a trend in alternative medicine that has increased dramatically over the past decade, making it acceptable as a legitimate form of therapy, particularly for addicts.

Holistic Therapies Effective in Addiction Recovery

In general, holistic approaches focus equally on the mind, body and spirit to promote overall wellbeing. The way holistic therapies work in an addiction treatment context is by providing patients with a means for coping with stress and tension that may otherwise result in relapse. Much of the techniques learned in holistic therapy can act as effective coping mechanisms for patients when they’ve left rehab.

Examples of holistic therapy include:

  • Acupressure and acupuncture
  • Meditation and yoga
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Neurofeedback and biofeedback
  • Reiki
  • Herbal remedies

These are just a few of the many options available to people looking for holistic addiction treatment. The common denominator for these therapies is that they all address the mind, body and spirit as a whole – or holistically – for effective treatment of the individual.

Effectiveness of Holistic Techniques

As we mentioned above, around a third of Americans are familiar with holistic medicine in some form or another. In terms of addiction rehab, around 40% of centers offer holistic therapies alongside more conventional medical approaches. Of those offering alternative treatments, nearly 60% use meditation in rehab, which is a reflection of the therapy’s popularity for patients in rehab.

The reason rehab centers favor meditation as a holistic therapy in addiction treatment is that has been shown to be one of the most effective mechanisms to prevent relapse. Meditation is a skill that has to be taught and requires the patient to focus fully on their breathing in order to free the mind of internal dialogue. This can effectively combat negative thought processes if practiced regularly and over time, patients in recovery find they have the skills to respond and react more positively to negative stimulus.

In general, holistic therapies are designed to deal with several factors at the same time including:

  • The physical symptoms caused by addiction and withdrawal
  • Restoring a patient’s emotional balance
  • Providing spiritual grounding as protection against cravings
  • Replaces unhealthy eating habits that often lead to neurochemical imbalance
  • Removes environmental toxins or contaminants that drive addiction

Holistic and Conventional Care in Combination

The majority of holistic therapies are used in conjunction with conventional therapies in rehab, which has been shown to be effective for long term recovery. Most medical professionals agree that research-based or ‘conventional’ treatment approaches are necessary for detox although they can be well supported by holistic therapies during rehabilitation and recovery.

Every individual attending a holistic recovery center has their own needs and will respond to treatment in varying ways. An approach that works for one may not be as effective for another. Having access to both holistic and conventional treatments in rehab allows patients the best options for support in their personal recovery journey. One of the main benefits of holistic addiction therapies is that patients can continue with sessions of their favorite practice in recovery, without drawing attention to themselves. Learning how to relax the mind in stressful situations is an important mechanism for avoiding relapse.

In terms of efficacy in recovery, holistic therapies are generally considered by medical professionals to be beneficial in ‘plugging the gaps’ in medical treatments. Because the holistic approach is about treating mental, emotional and physical aspects as a whole, it acts as a solid supplement to conventional addiction treatment. Patients are able to learn new skills and practices that can promote a healthier mindset for successful recovery and are also introduced to a new and healthier activity that doesn’t enable them to use.

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