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Is a Holistic Addiction Treatment Right for You?

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“Holistic” is a big buzzword these days, but you may be wondering what it actually means. In treatment for substance abuse, “holistic” describes an approach that considers patients’ physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Holistic drug rehabs offer traditional addiction treatment, such as one-on-one therapy and group therapy, but they also offer holistic approaches. Learn more about holistic treatment centers and if they’re right for you.

Is a Holistic Addiction Treatment Right for You?

What Is Holistic Addiction Treatment?

Traditional addiction treatment is typically a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, and medication when appropriate. Holistic treatment centers offer these therapies as well as alternative approaches. These may include experiential therapies like art therapy, psychodrama, yoga, adventure therapy, and EMDR. Experiential therapies help you recognize the connection between your thoughts, body, and behaviors.

In the last few decades, experiential and alternative therapies have become more prevalent in treatment settings. These types of therapies complement traditional approaches by addressing the “whole self.” That is why treatment centers with these options are sometimes referred to as holistic.

Holistic drug rehabs help you process emotions in different ways. They also teach you healthy practices that can prevent relapse. Attention to nutrition, exercise, sleep patterns, and stress management are all important in recovery.

Holistic therapies support these staples of a healthy life by teaching you new coping skills.

Types of Holistic Therapies

Types of treatments vary by holistic addiction treatment program, but some common holistic therapies include:


Yoga helps you learn to be kinder to your body. It may also reduce anxiety and help you navigate difficult emotions. Finding new ways to manage these experiences may reduce the risk of relapse.

Yoga stretches and strengthens the body. The three core components of modern yoga are:

· Movements through different postures

· Breathing in specific sequences

· Meditation

These practices help center the mind and body in the present moment. Some addiction treatment programs offer yoga as a complementary holistic method.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR therapy is an evidence-based intervention proven to ease symptoms of trauma, anxiety, depression, and other challenges. The practice taps into your brain’s natural ability to heal from distressing experiences. Past trauma can activate your fight, flight, or freeze response in the present. When your stress response is activated, your body can’t distinguish if the perceived danger is happening now or in the past. It goes into survival mode. This makes it extremely difficult to process traumatic events and move past them.

EMDR is a gentle trauma therapy that doesn’t require you to relive difficult memories. It works on the parts of the brain responsible for the fight, flight, or

freeze response. EMDR can help diminish the arousal and distress tied to past trauma. It doesn’t “erase” the distressful memory but trains your body and mind to feel safe when it arises.

In EMDR therapy, a specialist helps you identify a past event that is hijacking your stress response. You’ll discuss negative beliefs around the event as well as positive beliefs that could replace them. The EMDR therapist will guide you through sets of rapid eye movements. This bilateral stimulation of the eyes helps you stay grounded in the present moment. You’re not sucked back into the past by your memories. This state helps your body feel safe to reprocess the event. EMDR typically runs 6-12 sessions. It’s important that EMDR is performed by a certified EMDR professional.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Mindfulness comes in many forms. The practice is about being fully present in the moment without feeling overwhelmed by emotions and distractions. There are seated, walking, moving, or even standing methods of practicing mindfulness.

Meditation is the most well-known mindfulness practice. Meditation encourages you to focus on your breath, notice thoughts when they arise, and then bring your focus back to the breath. The practice encourages curiosity about thoughts, without judgment.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and improve reactive behaviors. In addiction treatment, meditation can help manage cravings, intense emotions, and other triggers. Sometimes this is a guided process where you recognize difficult emotions and urges, then talk about healthy coping skills.

Fitness and Exercise

Exercise may ease depression and anxiety symptoms, which sometimes fuel substance abuse. Exercise can also serve as a relapse prevention tool by boosting feel-good chemicals in your brain. These chemicals can become depleted when you abuse drugs or alcohol. Exercise also adds structure and routine to your daily schedule, which is especially important in the early days of recovery.

Biochemical Restoration

Struggling with drugs or alcohol can impact the reward center of the brain. Substance abuse can also lead to an imbalance in other physiological systems, such as:

  • Hormones
  • Blood sugar
  • Adrenaline
  • Amino acids
  • Nutrition

Toxic substances from drugs may build up in the body. These require time to flush out while keeping your glands, digestive system, and circulatory system healthy. Some holistic drug detox and alcohol rehab programs offer laboratory tests to determine if you need nutritional support. This may include vitamin and mineral supplements to reverse any imbalances.

When the body has fewer nutritional deficiencies and fewer hormonal or blood sugar imbalances, cravings may become less frequent and intense. This can help you avoid relapse.


Neurofeedback can help ease addiction, trauma, and mental health symptoms. It’s a non-invasive procedure that allows a computer to read your active brainwaves through EEG. With a little explanation, these signals can help you recognize areas of irregularity or distress.

Typical neurofeedback sessions occur once a week over 20 weeks, though some holistic therapy programs offer fewer or more frequent sessions. Some people may find they need more than 20 sessions. Neurofeedback works well for many people since they get a visual representation of their brain’s activity that they can see change as they practice relaxation or other techniques. This holistic practice

is one of several holistic therapy tools that complements cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or other forms of traditional therapy.


Withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol can linger for a while. It takes time for your body to restore balance. Acupuncture can help ease a number of symptoms like body pain, nausea, headaches, and irritability. Some treatment centers use NADA Ear Acupuncture, which has been shown to improve energy, increase positive feelings, and decrease alcohol and tobacco use. The procedure is simple and comfortable. An acupuncturist places 1-5 small needles on specific points in each ear. Sessions are about 30 minutes.

Other Holistic Treatment Approaches

While the above holistic treatments are some of the most studied approaches, other holistic substance abuse treatments may include:

  • Art therapy – uses painting, sculpting, and other forms of art to express and move through difficult emotions.
  • Massage therapy – uses massage techniques to address physical pain, increase relaxation, and improve mood.
  • Nutritional therapies – approaches may include nutritional counseling, nutrition classes, and cooking classes.
  • Aromatherapy – uses the essential oil scents to affect mood.
  • Ayurveda – promotes health through plants, diet, and exercise.
  • Guided imagery – a form of meditation that uses the imagination to help you relax.

Why Is Holistic Drug Rehab Effective?

Addiction impacts your physical, mental, and spiritual health. Holistic programs are effective because they come from a whole-person perspective that addresses all the ways addiction has impacted you. With a blend of traditional, experiential, and alternative therapies, you’re better able to find what combination of approaches best support your recovery.

Holistic Treatment or Traditional Treatment: What’s Right for You?

Both holistic drug rehabs and traditional programs use individual or group therapy in the treatment of addiction. Therapy helps you understand the underlying issues that led to substance abuse, which is key to long-term recovery. For instance, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) have long been recognized to help change negative thought patterns and behaviors. You’ll find research-based therapies like CBT in both traditional and holistic drug rehabs.

The main difference is that holistic recovery approaches also weave in alternative treatments. These can help you address your substance misuse from other angles. You can begin to heal some of the physical and spiritual effects of addiction as well. Holistic recovery approaches can be a nice complement to the work you’re doing in individual and group therapy.

Ready to Get Help?

Footprints to Recovery takes a personalized approach to substance abuse treatment. We consider co-occurring mental health disorders, life experiences, and individual preferences when creating your treatment plan. Our highly skilled and credentialed clinicians draw on a combination of traditional, experiential, and alternative therapies to find what works best for you. Contact us to learn how we can help you or a loved one.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

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