Beyond the Substance: Holistic Addiction Treatment

Holistic addiction treatment is a non-medicinal complement to conventional therapy methods. It is typically referred to as “alternative” medicine and is known to bring the mind, body, and spirit into alignment. Holistic treatments approach healing in terms of the “whole person.” By focusing on the mind and body simultaneously, psychological and physical needs are treated for complete healing.

Holistic Treatment Approaches


Meditation helps to clear the mind and focus. By doing this, it helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress.


Yoga pairs breathing with various postures and stretching exercises to help alleviate stress and reduce the pain associated with stress. It can also reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yoga helps because stress is a common trigger for relapse for those in addiction recovery.Yoga also helps regulate the stress hormones, known as cortisol and adrenaline. According to the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga can boost a person’s mood and brain chemistry. It does this by increasing the levels of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is helpful because the GABA levels in those with co-occurring mood disorders and addiction are typically lower.

Massage Therapy

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy aids in healing by:

  • Alleviating stress
  • Relaxing the body
  • Boosting mood
  • Promoting relaxation
  • Improving sleep
  • Reducing pain
  • Reducing levels of stress hormones (i.e. cortisol and adrenaline)
  • Acupuncture/Acupressure

These can be used to restore balance in the body, especially after long term substance abuse. Acupuncture and acupressure can also help relax the body by alleviating stress.

Equine Therapy

For those in early recovery, equine therapy can help reduce anxiety and clear the mind. Patients are better able to connect with their feelings. Horses are said to be able to sense human emotions better than humans can. By mirroring these emotions, patients can reconnect with the self they were before addiction.

Nutritional Therapy

A healthy diet is a crucial component of addiction recovery. It gives individuals the motivation and energy they need to progress further in recovery and maintain sobriety. Nutritional therapy helps this by providing tangible healing for recovering addicts. Their bodies are allowed to start fresh as they begin putting in the proper nutrients needed to overcome addiction.

Routine Exercise/Recreational Therapy

Along with a healthy diet, exercise can help prevent relapse. The body becomes stronger as the person does routine exercise. Stress is also reduced as the level of endorphins in the body increases. Exercise also helps prevent relapse by preventing boredom, as it fills up free time with a routine. Exercise and recreational therapy can include activities such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, or horseback riding.

Art Therapy

Art therapy provides a healthy outlet for the non-verbal communication of patients’ suppressed thoughts and emotions. In group settings, patients are able to connect with others by communicating through their art. Behavioral changes are encouraged in a positive way, and shame associated with the stigma of going to therapy is decreased.

Other General Approaches

Other holistic treatment approaches include:

  • Herbal medicines
  • Reiki and other energy work
  • Counseling
  • Spiritual therapy
  • Tai chi
  • Biofeedback and neurofeedback

What Are the Main Goals of Holistic Treatments?

Holistic treatments aim to promote exercise in patients. They also boost self-confidence and can decrease cravings in recovering addicts. They can help identify and evaluate the underlying causes of a person’s addiction. The treatments can also help reduce the appeal of drugs and alcohol for those in addiction recovery, to help them maintain a sober lifestyle.

How Can Holistic Treatments Help Recovering Addicts?

The approaches utilized in holistic treatments can help with different aspects of addiction recovery. Withdrawal symptoms are reduced through the use of relaxation methods such as acupuncture or massage. Physical pain can also be lessened through different treatments.The lack of spiritual grounding is also addressed to give people the proper motivation and purpose to help them heal.During addiction, malnutrition is prevalent due to poor eating habits. This is addressed as the person receives holistic treatment, especially in nutritional therapy.Stress and other intense emotions that play a part in the patterns associated with addiction are reduced, helping prevent relapse and promote recovery.

Looking at the Whole Person

Rather than treating one specific concern or issue, holistic treatments work to treat the whole person. For addiction treatment, this means that patients must address what lies beyond the roots of their addiction. The causes that play a significant role in the development of addiction are all brought to light and worked through to help the person to heal.This is why holistic treatments—used alongside other evidence-based therapies and methods—are extremely helpful in treating recovering addicts.

The Research

Several studies have been done on the success of holistic treatments. The results found that when a person feels satisfactory in their personal life during rehab, they are more likely to have the motivation to continue treatment and complete the rehab program. Holistic treatments give the person this motivation by treating all aspects within them rather than just specific traumas or memories.According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 40% of adults in the United States are actively using a form of holistic medicine. This shows how successful the treatments can be and how popular they are among American adults.

Holistic treatment methods can be incredibly helpful in treating addiction. Alongside other evidence-based treatments, clients are given a better chance at healing and maintaining a sober lifestyle. Holistic treatments approach healing in terms of the whole person rather than specific issues or concerns. This leaves the person with a positive outlook and gives them the motivation to finish their program in the treatment center. NorthStar Transitions uses holistic treatments as a part of its cutting-edge approach to addiction recovery. Call (303) 558-6400 to learn more about its approaches and methods for treating its clients and see if the programs are right for you.

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