What Are the Differences Between Traditional & Modern Addiction Treatments?

In today’s world of highly developed medicine and cures for many diseases, there are endless possibilities for feeling better. Addiction, unfortunately, cannot be cured, but it can be treated over time and can be controlled with various coping methods. The different treatments offered to treat addiction today are typically split into two categories: traditional and modern.Traditional treatments are the evidence-based methods that have been proven by multiple research studies. Modern treatments take a more holistic and experiential approach to addiction treatment and recovery. Knowing the differences between the two can help you decide which course of treatment is best for your personal recovery journey: traditional, modern, or a mix.

What Does Traditional Treatment Involve?

Traditional treatment is not as common in today’s world of rehab and further addiction recovery programs. This is due to the fact that many professionals are incorporating more modern techniques and approaches into their programs. Traditional treatments typically use the perspective of western medicine: finding an ailment and curing it with medicine. Using conventional therapies such as medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes, help individuals heal in this method.The majority of traditional treatments begin with either acute or subacute detoxification. This process helps addicts get rid of the poisons in their bodies from their substance abuse under medical supervision. Medications are often used during this process to alleviate the feelings of discomfort caused by withdrawal.After detoxing, individuals should be referred to addiction treatment programs. From there, they can receive counseling, therapy, and learn how to live a sober life after their addiction. However, many of these programs involve more modern approaches to addiction recovery.

Modern (Holistic) Treatment

More modern treatments and programs in the United States are taking a more holistic approach. A holistic approach takes into account the body, the mind, and the spirit, viewing them as one entity that needs healing when an affliction is found. Holistic medicine believes that when one of these areas is unbalanced or damaged, it causes issues within the other two.In today’s modern world of addiction treatment, holistic approaches use both conventional and alternative medicines to help addicts in recovery, according to the American Holistic Health Association.Just as with the traditional approach to treatment, the holistic approach also begins with detoxification. However, the steps after may be different or involve different approaches to healing and recovery.

Traditional Approaches to Addiction Treatment

There are several traditional approaches that have been tried and tested to aid recovering addicts in their journey to sobriety. Many of these treatments are used in sequence, with individuals moving from one to the other as they progress through their recovery. Common techniques and programs include residential treatment, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs, and fully outpatient programs.

Residential Treatment

This stage typically follows the detoxification process. In a residential treatment program, individuals are under constant supervision and have access to care at all hours of the day. However, the program does not take place in a hospital. They become part of the recovery community in the treatment center, allowing them to find sober friends and a support network. These programs are typically structured and may use a 12-step method to addiction treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

If someone’s addiction is less severe and they require less supervision, they may be more likely to enroll in a partial hospitalization program (PHP). They are also known as intensive outpatient programs. This is especially good for those individuals that are still working, going to school, or maintaining responsibility at home.These programs are less structured but still have therapy sessions multiple times a week for a couple of hours a day. Individuals are able to return home at night.

Outpatient Programs

In outpatient programs, the schedule is much less structured. Clients typically come and go as needed, engaging in different forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, group counseling, individual counseling, motivational interviewing, and more. These programs are more for those that have gone through a residential treatment program or a PHP.

Holistic Approaches to Addiction Treatment

Holistic treatments are derived from traditional medicine rather than conventional therapies. These methods have become popular in the United States over the past century, allowing their benefits to reach more and more people. There are a number of methods used in the holistic approach to help those in addiction recovery.Some of these include yoga, mindfulness therapy, massage therapy, animal therapy, hypnosis, art therapy, brainwave biofeedback, and acupuncture. Any of these can be used to alleviate symptoms of addiction and are often mixed with traditional approaches to addiction treatment.


This is one of the most popular ways to treat addiction in the holistic approach. Acupuncture involves placing hair-thin needles in specific points of the body to aid in healing and restore balance between the body, mind, and spirit. For addiction, auricular acupuncture is often used, which involves placing needles in certain points of the ear to promote healing.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be used in addiction treatment as a relaxation method and stress reliever. Stress is a common trigger for relapse, and according to the American Psychological Association, stress weakens your immune systems, making you susceptible to even more health problems and diseases. Massage therapy combats this by slowing the release of stress hormones and giving individuals a sense of peace.


Another popular way to treat addiction is by undergoing hypnosis. This often involves focusing your mind on one thing in a natural state, guided by yourself or a therapist. Hypnosis often helps the mind be more willing to accept new ideas to help with healing and recovery. When combined with other holistic or traditional treatments, hypnosis can be extremely beneficial.

Holistic and traditional treatments dominate the addiction recovery community. There are so many approaches to treating addiction in today’s modern world, it can be confusing. However, knowing your options and what may be the best choice for you can help narrow down your possibilities and get you on the right path to recovery. For more information on holistic and traditional treatments and what is offered at the center, contact Northstar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.

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