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Most Effective Holistic Therapies for Addiction Treatment

A growing trend in healthcare for the past few decades has been holistic treatment for a wide range of ailments. Substance abuse and addiction treatment is no exception to this, and a variety of holistic treatment programs are applied in rehab centers around the US.

In many instances, these holistic therapies such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture are used to augment conventional addiction treatment therapies like individual counseling, medical detox, and behavioral therapies.

The goal of using alternative therapies is to optimize the mental, physical and spiritual health of patients, so that they can continue their lives without the need for drugs or alcohol. Advocates of many of the treatment modes argue they can have a profound if not crucial influence on recovery.

What is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine is a form of therapy that heals the whole person, body, mind, spirit, and emotions. It significantly helps in obtaining optimal health and wellness by gaining proper balance in life.

According to holistic medicine practitioners, the whole person consists of interdependent parts and if one part is not functioning properly, all the other parts suffer. In order to improve overall health, one must be physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced. As Socrates said in the 4th century B.C., “the part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

Furthermore, holistic therapy borrows from the theory of psychosynthesis. It is a movement of psychospiritual development, exploration, and inquiry. This approach claims that suffering can be caused by a loss of contact with who we really are and psychosynthesis seeks to restore and renew this contract. Human beings are uniquely capable of understanding and facilitating this process through therapy, self-reflection, meditation, and any number of other methods one might prefer. Psychosynthesis draws from both Western and Eastern theories on health. Eastern psychology focuses on the spiritual side of health, while its Western counterpart focuses more on personality and neurobiology. Psychosynthesis combines these two to ensure that clients experience total healing, realize their full potential, and express the “self” in the purest, most natural way possible.

History of Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies have been practiced for thousands of years in ancient China, India, and Egypt for their therapeutic effects. Two of the most well documented ancient holistic health traditions are Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.

Chinese Medicine practitioners use herbal medicines and a wide range of mind and body practices, such as acupuncture and tai chi, to treat health problems. Traditional Chinese Medicine has its roots in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 2,500 years. It views the human body as a small universe of interconnected systems, including physical elements as well as subtle energies, such as “qi,” or life force, and “shen,” or spirit.

On the other hand, Ayurveda is the ancient medical tradition of India. A science of life, it derives from the words Ayur = life and Veda = science or knowledge. It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vibrant and healthy while realizing their full human potential. Ayurveda practitioners believe that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. When something disrupts this balance, such as injuries, climate, age, and your emotions, you get sick. It promotes eating a healthy diet, getting restful sleep, living in tune with nature, exercising, and strengthening your digestive power.

Applying the Holistic Approach to Addiction Treatment

The holistic view of addiction is that is a direct consequence of the imbalances within the individual. The addiction is simply a symptom of a deeper problem and that is the inability of the individual to feel comfortable in their own skin. By restoring the balance within the individual, they will no longer feel the need to rely on chemicals.

The main objectives of holistic therapy include:

  • Identifying the underlying causes of addiction
  • Strengthening resistance to cravings
  • Promoting physical fitness
  • Increasing self-confidence
  • Reducing the appeal of drug and alcohol use

Holistic therapies change the biochemistry in the brain and restore the balance of the neural network within the brain and along the central nervous system. They induce a positively associated physiological response to decrease stress, perception to physical and emotional pain, and improve overall feelings of well-being. These practices increase endorphins which affect the body’s opiate receptors, reducing pain and stress.

Holistic therapies also encourage an increased neurotransmission of gamma-aminobutyric acid that reduces nerve cell communication and results in a reduction of anxiety and stress. For example, acupuncture stimulates the hypothalamus which relates to many functions within the nervous system. Acupuncture also stimulates the pituitary gland that regulates hormones within the body.

Types of Holistic Therapies

There are a number of holistic therapies available that will consider the factors unique to patient’s recovery. Some, like chiropractic, involve physical manipulation of the body, others like acupuncture are forms of energy medicine, and others are biologically based, as is the case with nutritional therapies.

Physical Activity

By participating in physical activity, patients build strength and endurance, relax, and learn how to cope with stress. Staying active can greatly help in battling with depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Daily exercise can boost mood which is vital in recovering addicts. It fills the void of using substances, lends a sense of purpose, and offers a natural high. Exercise can improve the function of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine systems. It can also have a positive effect on learning, memory, multitasking, and planning.

Biochemical Restoration and Nutrition

The process of biochemical restoration repairs the biochemical imbalances that cause depression, anxiety, and cause cravings. These biochemical imbalances, such as imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain, nutrient deficiencies, amino acid imbalances, and hypoglycemia, make an individual more prone to addiction.

Each individual’s biochemical imbalances are assessed and a customized biochemical restoration plan is established. This includes a personal nutrition plan, a prescribed physical activity, and a micronutrient supplement including amino acids. Other addiction treatment approaches such as counseling and relapse prevention can take place once balance is restored.

According to most nutritionists, an individual in early recovery can fight off depression and anxiety by incorporating foods that contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, complete proteins, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals. In addition, learning about nutrition, how to cook healthful meals, and making good food choices are accessible options for the majority of people in recovery.


Acupuncture is a 3,000-year old healing technique of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body which results in the body producing natural substances such as pain-relieving endorphins.

This type of therapy has its roots in the ancient philosophy that regards the universe and the body as two opposing forces, yin and yang. An energy called “qi”, flows along specific pathways called meridians, throughout the body. When “qi” doesn’t flow freely through the body, this can cause illness. Acupuncture can restore the flow of “qi”, and so resolve pain, improve sleep, enhance digestive function, and restore health.

Mind-Body Practices

  • Yoga: yoga uses a combination of breathing exercises, meditation, and poses to flex various muscle groups. Its goal is to bring the body, mind, and spirit together in a united alignment. Studies show that yoga can relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, and can assist recovering addicts in preventing relapse. Through practicing yoga, recovering addicts can become aware of their behavioral patterns and make the conscious resolution to improve.
  • Meditation: meditation is a way of learning how to focus attention to calm the mind and relax the body. It is effective in reducing blood pressure, relieving stress, and developing improved coping strategies. There are many different types of meditation, such as focused meditation, open awareness/mindfulness, and compassion or loving-kindness meditation.
  • Massage therapy: massage therapy is manual manipulation of the muscles, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments, to enhance a person’s health and well-being. Research shows that massage can reduce pain, tension, and stress. It may also help with symptoms after surgery, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and fatigue.

What to Look for in a Holistic Rehab

Before enrolling into any rehabilitation center, you should first evaluate its holistic programs and ensure they are right for you.

It’s vital to decide on a program that has a broad range of treatment options available because each patient responds differently to different modalities. The rehab center you choose must tailor treatment to the individual’s specific needs.

Furthermore, check how long the program lasts for. Most rehab centers offer 30-day or 60-day addiction rehab programs. See if you can start with a short-term program and extend your stay if needed. Keep in mind that the most effective programs last for 90 days or more.

The location of the rehab center is also of vital importance. Find out how far the program is from where you live and if it farther away than you’d like, then you may need to measure the potential benefits against the travel costs. Choosing a local facility might be a better option if you have a solid sober support at home and within your community.

Keep in mind that holistic programs can be pricey due to the secluded location, nutritious food, and experienced staff. Compare the cost of various programs and find out if the centers accept health insurance and work with you on developing a payment plan to suit your specific situation.

Another aspect that is worth considering is the staff credentials. It is important that all staff should have extensive experience and training with addiction and substance use disorders. Pick out a facility that is accredited or in compliance with state and federal treatment regulations.

Finally, a reputable and well-established facility will provide a comprehensive aftercare plan to help maintain sobriety after returning back to society. Choose a facility that offers support groups, sober living, and other forms of continued therapy.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

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