Holistic Therapy: Treating the Person, Not the Addiction

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By Kimberly Hayes

When you are fighting to overcome addiction, it’s important to use every tool in your arsenal. From support group meetings to meditation, sustainable recovery is more likely to occur if you explore both traditional and alternative forms of treatment. Not only can you find ways to motivate and support your specific recovery needs, you can develop hobbies and interests that improve other areas of your life. Holistic therapy is an alternative addiction treatment that both supports your addiction recovery and boosts your overall well-being.

Holistic therapy combines traditional and alternative approaches to addiction recovery to help treat a person’s mind, body, and spirit. From looking closely at nutrition and exercise to understanding an individual’s unique spiritual and cultural needs, holistic therapy goes beyond cookie-cutter approaches to treating substance addiction.

How is this beneficial? For starters, holistic therapy strives to find the root of the dysfunction that is behind the addiction, not just to eliminate the addiction in isolation. Holistic therapy uses a variety of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual techniques to promote constant growth, while treating the symptoms of addiction, along with the underlying cause. Some examples of holistic addiction treatment include:

  • Art therapy: This style of individual and group therapy focuses on using creativity to work through trauma, symptoms of addiction, and stress. By combining psychological practices with active art-making, art therapy improves cognitive functioning, self-esteem, and self-awareness. Working on these three mental health goals can help people feel more optimistic during recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.
  • Meditation: Slowing down and being more mindful about our thoughts and behaviors is known to help reduce stress and improve willpower. Meditation can help reveal the underlying emotional causes of an addiction. Whereas many people use substances to manage their mood, escaping pain or denying a traumatic event, meditation is a natural way to regulate stress and anxiety and generate a more positive outlook on life.
  • Acupuncture: This ancient form of Chinese medicine can help alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal, along with the accompanying muscular aches and pains. The goal of acupuncture is to change the way energy moves through your body by inserting thin needles into the skin at specific points. In some cases, acupuncture has even been seen to help reduce cravings.
  • Biofeedback: Using specialized equipment, a trained biofeedback specialist helps patients understand and ultimately control involuntary responses to stress. The equipment essentially translates brainwaves into information that allows you to understand why and when your body reacts in a certain way, helping you to manage high blood pressure, anxiety, muscle tension, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). For people living with addiction, biofeedback helps manage both the physical symptoms and the underlying mental health issue.

The root of the word holistic comes from the Greek word holos, meaning “whole.” Holistic therapy sets out to overcome addiction by addressing the whole person—which is why you’ll rarely see only one technique or strategy used. By assessing your needs and goals, a plan is put into motion that helps you manage your recovery day-to-day. From waking up and spending a half-hour in meditation to planning healthy, whole meals each week, holistic therapy requires changes from the inside out. Using this as a catalyst to discover new hobbies—especially with sober friends and family members who would like to reconnect—can build upon the personal growth you’re already doing.

Many people recovering from addiction are drawn to holistic methods because of their foundation in nature. Searching for a sense of balance, especially if your life has been dominated by drugs or alcohol, can be intimidating and even scary. Holistic therapy gives you a sense of control while empowering you to be comfortable letting go.

Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.