Holistic and Alternative Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Many rehabs use holistic therapies as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment therapy program. Keep reading to learn more about holistic therapy, its potential benefits for people with addiction, and how to find a quality rehab center near you.

What Is Holistic Therapy?

Holistic therapy is generally used to describe an unconventional or non-mainstream medical treatment. “Holistic” refers to a whole-person healthcare approach that considers a person’s biological, behavioral, social, environmental, and spiritual needs, rather than just treating the disease.2

Although they have slightly different meanings, the terms holistic, complementary, and alternative therapy are often used interchangeably.2

Complementary and alternative therapies can fall under different categories as follows.2

  • Nutritional (e.g., special diets, dietary supplements, herbs).
  • Psychological (e.g., mindfulness and meditation).
  • Physical (e.g., massage, spinal manipulation, exercise).
  • Combination therapies (e.g., yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, art or music therapy, mindful eating).

In many cases, complementary or alternative therapies may be used in combination with more conventional, evidence-based methods as part of an integrated addiction treatment plan.3

How Does Holistic Therapy Work for Addiction Treatment?

Holistic therapy is meant to work alongside more traditional addiction treatments like medication and research-backed behavioral therapies. It is not meant to replace them.4

When used together with these evidence-based approaches, complementary therapies may help improve a person’s recovery experiences and outcomes.4

While conventional addiction treatment uses certain methods to help reduce detox symptoms, cravings, and other effects of substance use, holistic therapies help patients develop healthy lifestyle changes they can continue using even after they leave rehab.4

Holistic treatments have been linked to improved overall physical and mental well-being, as well as better coping skills when it comes to daily stressors.4

Types of Holistic Therapy

Complementary and alternative therapies involve a variety of practices and activities that focus on mindfulness, psychological health, and physical well-being.

Common types of holistic therapy include:4

  • Acupuncture—Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that uses thin needles to stimulate targeted areas of a person’s body. Acupuncture may help alleviate muscle aches and chronic pain.2,4
  • Massage therapy—Massage is a common method of self-care that can help with full-body relaxation and easing muscle tension. Limited research suggests massage may have potential benefits for improving alcohol withdrawal symptoms and decreasing anxiety during cocaine and opiate withdrawal.4
  • Mindfulness—Mindfulness and meditation focus on training a person’s mind to think without judgment on their experiences and become fully aware of the present moment. Mindfulness-based practices are among the most studied holistic therapies and have proven helpful in treating conditions like depression, anxiety, pain, and stress, with some additional promise in the treatment of substance use disorders.4
  • Tai Chi—This ancient Chinese art form can help boost balance and stability, while also reducing back and joint pain and possibly improving the overall quality of life for people with certain chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.2
  • Yoga—While some styles of yoga are gentler, others can be more physically demanding. Yoga can help relieve tension and stress while also improving a person’s sense of well-being and self-connection. Yoga can also help with lower back pain, sleep quality, and depression symptoms.2,4
  • Qi Gong—Qi Gong combines gentle yoga and meditation with an emphasis on mental focus. Preliminary evidence suggests that Qi Gong may help reduce withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and anxiety associated with substance use disorders.4
  • Music therapy—This relaxing therapeutic technique involves playing an instrument, singing, dancing, listening to music, or other types of music-based interventions that can help a patient accomplish personal goals. These goals may include stress management, improved memory, emotional expression, reduced pain, and more.4,5
  • Art therapy—This alternative therapy has been used in the treatment of substance use disorders since the 1950s. In art therapy, patients can express themselves through different creative activities, such as painting emotions or experiences (i.e., “incident drawing), stress painting, making an art journal, and sculpting.6
  • Hypnotherapy—Hypnotherapy may help improve a person’s response to substance use triggers. A preliminary study demonstrated the positive effects of hypnotherapy on abstinence, self-esteem, anger, and impulsivity.4

Benefits of Holistic Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Holistic therapy may have certain benefits for addiction treatment. Although more research is needed, some evidence suggests that complementary therapies, such as mindfulness and meditation, can help:3,7

  • Prevent a return to use and reduce the risk of relapse.
  • Decrease the occurrence of injuries related to substance use or misuse.
  • Reduce addiction-related symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • Increase rehab completion rates and improve overall treatment outcomes.

This may be especially true when holistic therapies are combined with other evidence-based treatments.3

For example, studies on patients with cocaine use disorder, who received contingency management therapy plus mindfulness-based psychotherapy, showed greater reductions in depressed mood, addiction severity, and risk of relapse, as well as higher treatment completion rates, compared to the control group.3

Additional studies on the benefits of exercise in patients with stimulant use disorders have also shown some promise. These findings suggest that physical activity may help improve depression, anxiety, inhibitory control, abstinence, and drug cravings.3

Is Holistic Therapy Effective?

There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of holistic therapies for addiction treatment. While the few existing studies have shown promising outcomes, more research is needed in this area.4

However, research does support the effectiveness of complementary or alternative therapies, such as mindfulness, yoga, and physical exercise, for various mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.2,3,8

Drug and Mental Health Rehab in Hollywood, FL

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, professional treatment can help. Recovery First is an inpatient rehab near Miami that provides different types of addiction treatment designed to meet each patient’s individual needs.

At Recovery First, we offer several holistic therapies in addition to our cutting-edge, evidence-based addiction treatments. Complementary therapies include:

  • Yoga.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Nutrition classes.
  • Exercise and strength training in our fully equipped gym.

These therapeutic approaches are meant to be integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan. To learn more about your treatment options, call or contact us online.

Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer questions about paying for rehab or using insurance to pay for rehab and to help you start treatment today.

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