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Explore Holistic Therapies in Addiction Treatment

October 14, 2019

As addiction treatment evolves, holistic therapies have become increasingly popular in promoting recovery and lasting sobriety.

Some people question these approaches. Compared to more traditional Western medicine, there are fewer studies on the effectiveness of holistic therapy to treat addiction. But holistic practices such as yoga and meditation may reduce stress, and reducing stress is a good way to lower the risk of addiction. People attest that holistic therapies have helped them in their journey to recovery.

Various holistic options

Individuals taking the first steps toward addiction recovery have many options for drug or alcohol addiction treatment. In addition to 12-Step approaches, many treatment programs offer holistic interventions that may include:

  • Meditation. This practice uses techniques such as mindfulness and focus to help patients achieve mental clarity and emotional stability. Mindfulness helps make people more aware of their cravings and thus may reduce relapse.

  • Exercise. Physical activity may alleviate withdrawal symptoms, relieve stress and improve overall well-being. Exercise helps people recovering from addictions become stronger physically and mentally.

  • Yoga. One type-specific physical activity, yoga, combines both exercise and meditation to help the mind and the body. Surbhi Khanna and Jeffrey M. Greeson state that yoga and mindfulness may help β€œbreak the cycle of stress, negative emotions, and addictive behavior by creating a sense of self-awareness, self-control, and self-realization.”

  • Acupuncture. In the practice of acupuncture, needles stimulate various body parts. Acupuncture may help people who are addicted to heroin or other opioids.

  • Art therapy. Some treatment centers and programs use music, painting, writing, crafts and other artistic pursuits to serve as healthy outlets for expressing underlying emotions that may surround substance use.

  • Nutrition. When in recovery, people who enjoy balanced and healthy meals may become stronger and experience better health.

  • Massage therapy. While applying pressure on tense muscles, massage therapists may help their clients relieve stress, boost mood and improve overall well-being. Massage therapy may help individuals cope with emotions they tried to hide in the past by using alcohol or drugs.

To some, these approaches and other types of treatment for substance use disorders that do not incorporate medications are less valid choices. Although holistic treatments are growing in popularity, some still express doubts about their effectiveness. Professionals at holistic drug rehabs should be aware of how they present holistic treatment methods so that current and prospective clients may make informed choices.

How can addiction treatment professionals prove the effectiveness of holistic therapy? They can:

  • Compile a list of sources that support holistic approaches.

Although there may not be large numbers of scientific studies on holistic treatment, there is still information that links underlying causes of substance abuse and how holistic therapies may help address them.

An article in Psychology Today discusses how practicing mindfulness may help people with substance use disorders change their thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness may help people focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the past or future.

Professionals at rehab facilities may compile research to support the holistic treatments that they offer. This information may help people make the best choices for their treatment and aftercare.

  • Ask former clients for testimonials.

Testimonials are a good way to introduce various holistic treatments to skeptics. You may ask permission from previous clients to share information on how specific treatments worked for them. The recommendations of powerful influencers may encourage other people to try your services.

When clients-to-be hear firsthand information about how holistic approaches have been effective for others, they may become more inclined to try them themselves. The testimonials may be posted inside your facility or may be included on your website. Testimonials with quotations are a form of social proof that your holistic treatments already have satisfied customers.

  • Support research for holistic treatment.

To find further evidence, you also may fund research to provide scientific evidence that holistic treatments are effective. Companies and organizations sometimes sponsor such research to provide support for their products or services.

You may want to hire an individual or a group of independent researchers to explore the topics of choice. If you want to conduct your own research, you may ask for help yourself. You may apply for grants through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and various public and private organizations.

Many rehabilitation centers not only have excellent facilities, but also have the capacity to offer diverse treatment options. By compiling and providing research about holistic approaches and gathering client testimonials, you can provide documentation of their effectiveness.

Backing holistic therapy

Since it has treated millions of military veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) knows illness and recovery. Its website touts the holistic benefits of yoga. The department also sponsors yoga classes at VA centers across the United States and said it is working with staff across the country β€œto find ways to offer more integrative health and well-being services, including yoga.”

Natural, holistic recovery methods introduce new solutions to help solve old problems. They create healthy practices and thoughts to replace unhealthy habits. Used in conjunction with medical assistance, prescriptions, counseling and sobriety groups, holistic practices may be an effective tool to fight addiction and encourage recovery.

Dale Vernor is a writer on topics in addiction and mental health for Sunshine Behavioral Health in Orange County, Calif.

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