What Is Holistic Addiction Treatment?

Updated on October 23, 2019
Woman comforting another in rehab group at a therapy session
Depositphotos 76623383 s 2019 copy

According to the United States Surgeon General, one in seven people in the United States will struggle with an addiction to a substance. 

Unfortunately, despite the pervasiveness of addiction and substance disorders in the U.S., only 10% of those people will receive treatment. This all comes as we grapple with the American opioid epidemic, which kills tens of thousands each year. 

One of the most important things for people who are dealing with addiction to realize is first that it’s a chronic disease and not a moral failing that should be stigmatized. It’s also important to know that treatment is available, and one form of addiction treatment is holistic. Holistic treatment does what it sounds like—it treats the whole person and not just their substance abuse. 

The following are some of the things to know about holistic addiction treatment and how it works.

What Is Holistic Rehab?

Holistic is actually a very broad term, and the specifics of what this type of addiction treatment entails can have a lot to do with the individual and the specific program.

Some holistic treatment programs will integrate alternative or complementary therapies into the treatment plan. This could include any variety of modalities from neurofeedback and reiki to massage therapy. 

We often associate holistic treatment with something that’s new age, and while it can be, it doesn’t have to be. Holistic treatment, as was mentioned, can be a treatment that addresses the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of a patient. 

A holistic rehab program typically doesn’t leave out evidence-based practices, including behavioral therapy and, if necessary, medication-assisted treatment. A holistic program will usually just add to those parts of treatment. 

Does Holistic Treatment Work for Addiction?

Addiction is classified as a complex but treatable chronic disease. As with other chronic diseases, many different factors play a role in addiction. There are biological components and genetic considerations to look at with addiction, but also environmental factors. The complexity of addiction can lend themselves to holistic treatment because it can break down each of these components and work on all of them for an effective overall program. 

Also, whether including alternative or holistic treatments in rehab is effective or not is up for debate, but many feel that it is because, above all else, these are things that encourage people to stay in treatment for long enough. We know for certain that the longer someone stays in treatment, typically, the better their outcomes. 

What Therapies Are Used in Holistic Treatment?

Again, the actual types of therapies used in a holistic treatment program can vary widely, but examples include:

  • Neurofeedback: This is a way that the brain’s states of arousal can be increased or decreased. It’s still fairly new in terms of its applications in addiction treatment, but there are promising results as far as the use of neurofeedback to help with co-occurring mental health disorders as well as dealing with relapse triggers. 
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Meditation and mindfulness are often included not only as part of holistic rehab programs, but they’re also frequently used in 12-step programs. Mindfulness helps people with substance use disorders become more aware and in control of their thoughts and feelings and that can be essential to reduce the risk of relapse. These can be a good complement to behavioral therapy. 
  • Nutritional Counseling: When you’re in recovery from addiction, your physical health is severely impacted in many cases. You may be lacking the nutrition you need, and your body’s systems can be out-of-balance. Nutritional counseling can be a good way to get back on track and learn how to nurture your body in treatment and recovery. 
  • Yoga: Physical activity can be an integral part of addiction recovery, and one option is yoga. Yoga can help with mindfulness and stress relief as well as promoting better physical health. 
  • Acupuncture: During acupuncture, needles are placed at various points throughout the body. This can help with psychological symptoms that occur in detox and recovery such as depression and anxiety, and it can also help with pain relief. 

These are just a small sample of the many forms of treatment that might be included in a holistic program. Others are options such as art and music therapy that let people in treatment and recovery embrace creative expression.

It’s impossible to say whether a holistic addiction treatment program is right for everyone, but many people do find that it’s beneficial for them on an individual level as they work to overcome substance dependence. 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.