What is Holistic Addiction Recovery

In Holostic Addiction Recovery by Randy Kassebaum

You may have heard of the term “holistic treatment” in the field of addiction recovery, but what exactly is it and who can benefit from such treatments?  The medical definition of holistic treatment is an approach that treats the whole person, not just a symptom of a disease.  Holistic addiction recovery does not discount traditional treatment methods, but rather utilize holistic treatment approaches in conjunction with traditional forms of addiction treatment.  While standard addiction treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Medication Assisted Treatments are evidence-based treatments that are widely used and accepted in the field of addiction recovery, holistic treatments can help curb withdrawal symptoms, serve as coping tools to help prevent relapse, help with mental health and emotional issues, and enhance mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing as well as overall quality of life. 

What is Holistic Addiction Recovery?

A holistic approach to addiction treatment has been a growing trend in the field of addiction recovery that is incorporated into more standard therapies.  The term “holistic treatment” can be used as an umbrella term that often refers to a “whole person” approach to treatment, meaning that there is a simultaneous focus on mental health and physical health, as well as other areas of an individual’s wellbeing such as spiritual health.  As such, an underlying premise of holistic therapy is that there is an integration of an individual’s body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  Using a holistic approach to addiction recovery, the entire person is addressed in treatment and not just one aspect of the individual or a particular symptom that the individual is presenting.  Holistic treatments are designed to have an effect on the individual’s overall well-being rather than target a particular symptom or behavior.

Although holistic approaches are often viewed as separate from conventional psychotherapeutic approaches, there is a field of counseling known as “holistic psychotherapy” that combines the elements.  Most notably, holistic psychotherapy combines practices of traditional talk therapy including psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy with non-traditional holistic therapies such as hypnotherapy and breathwork.  Today you will find that most inpatient addiction treatment centers, as well as many outpatient addiction treatment centers and even private addiction therapy practices incorporate some aspects of holistic therapies into their approach to addiction recovery.

Is Holistic Treatment Evidence-Based?

Addiction treatment usually involves treatment via evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Medication Assisted Treatment, and although holistic therapy is a growing trend in the addiction recovery field, many holistic therapies are not covered by insurance as there is not as much rigorous empirical evidence to prove their efficaciousness.  This does not mean that holistic therapy is not highly effective.

Many holistic therapies have been proven to be effective in research studies to provide benefits such as increased wellbeing, an increased sense of self, and a decrease in depression or anxiety, among other benefits.  However, much of the research that has been done in this field may not be as reliable as the research that has been done in more conventional westernized therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.  Nonetheless, these therapies continue to be used as no harmful effects have been found by integrating them into conventional treatment.

Although some may view holistic treatments as countering psychotherapeutic or pharmaceutical approaches to recovery, all treatments can complement each other when used appropriately by addiction specialists.  For example, evidence-based approaches to addiction recovery such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Medication Assisted Treatment can be used in conjunction with holistic therapies such as meditation, exercise therapy, and nutritional therapy, among others.

What Are Some Examples of Holistic Addiction Treatments?

There are a wide range of holistic treatments that can be used in the field of addiction recovery.  Some common forms of holistic treatments used for addiction recovery may include:

  • Biofeedback and Neurofeedback
  • Art, Music, or Writing Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Nutritional Therapy
  • Exercise
  • Herbal and Plant Medicines
  • Acupuncture
  • Reiki
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Sound Therapy
  • Shamanic Healing
  • Energy Healing
  • Breathwork
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Kirtan
  • Tai Chi
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
  • Massage Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Nature Therapy
  • Equine Therapy and other Animal Therapies

Who Is a Good Candidate for Holistic Treatment?

Addiction treatment should always be customized to meet the unique needs of each individual.  While there are “cookie cutter” approaches to addiction recovery that are highly effective, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for example, the best treatment outcomes occur when an individual has a customized treatment plan to meet their respective needs.  Needs are based on considerations such as history of substance use, past attempts at addiction treatment (what has worked and what has not worked), co-occurring mental health disorders (dual diagnosis), multicultural differences (age, sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.), and personality, among other areas.

Being that there are a wide range of holistic treatment approaches for addiction recovery, there are sure to be various approaches that will be beneficial for everyone.  One of the core tenants of holistic therapy and addiction recovery overall is to improve wellness and become an improved version of self.  As such, holistic approaches such as nutritional therapy or exercise can be beneficial for just about anyone.  Especially being that individuals’ physical health has generally deteriorated as a result of substance abuse.  Holistic therapies are not harmful, and therefore they are often incorporated and encouraged in addiction recovery centers for all individuals.  The best way of finding an approach that is beneficial to your addiction recovery process is by trying them with an open mind and an open heart.

Holistic therapy can be beneficial not only for substance addictions such as to alcohol addiction, benzodiazepine addiction, or opioid addiction, but also to behavioral and process addictions such as sex addiction, gambling addiction, and digital addictions such as cryptocurrency addiction, gaming addiction and social media addiction, as well as all other forms of addiction.  Holistic treatment is also beneficial for individual struggling with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Holistic treatment can be used for all addictions, including but not limited to:

  • Alcohol addiction
  • Drug addiction
  • Gaming addiction
  • Gambling addiction
  • Cryptocurrency addiction
  • Sex addiction and porn addiction
  • Food addiction

Holistic treatment can be used for all addictions, including but not limited to:

Many comprehensive addiction treatment programs incorporate holistic treatment into their approach.  Reviewing the website of addiction recovery centers to see what services they offer is a good starting point.  For more in-depth and hands on guidance, you may want to seek out an addiction specialist who offers consultations and treatment placement in order to find the right addiction treatment provider that meets your needs.  Some of the more common holistic approaches used in addiction recovery include nutritional counseling, yoga, exercise, mindfulness and meditation.  Other specialized holistic approaches may be more sparse and harder to find, such as art therapy, music therapy, hypnotherapy and nature therapy, to name a few.  As such, if you are interested in seeking out a particular holistic approach you may need to put some more time and energy into finding an addiction treatment center that not only offers the approach you are looking for, but that also aligns with your needs more broadly and that is reputable.  There are many considerations when searching for the right addiction treatment provider, but taking the time to do so is worthwhile, as recovery is lifechanging and perhaps one of the greatest and most important undertakings of an individual’s life.