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  • Holistic Approaches In Addiction Treatment

    Published on October 4, 2021
    Holistic Approaches In Addiction Treatment

    When most people think of addiction treatment, they imagine medical detox and traditional therapies like individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

    These treatment services are essential. However, the most effective treatment plans also include holistic approaches.

    Understanding The Holistic Treatment Approach

    The word “holistic” means “whole person.” A holistic treatment approach considers all of a person’s individual needs, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual

    In a drug addiction recovery program, a holistic approach can boost your overall sense of well-being, help you uncover underlying causes of drug abuse, and lower your risk of relapse. 

    Common Holistic Approaches In Addiction Treatment

    There are a wide variety of holistic addiction treatment services. You’ll find different services at different drug rehab centers. However, the most common holistic treatment methods include:

    Physical Activities

    Many rehab programs promote regular physical activity. Your treatment team can help you create a personalized exercise plan based on your health and interests. 

    Most treatment facilities offer basic activities like walking, running, swimming, and weight training. Others also provide more unique activities, such as dancing, rock climbing, and horseback riding. 

    All physical activities can help you overcome addiction by:

    • boosting endorphins, which are brain chemicals that promote happiness, reduce stress, and improve sleep
    • giving structure to your day, which can help distract you from drug cravings
    • making you feel accomplished, which can increase your confidence and inspire you to resist triggers (people, places, feelings, or situations that make you want to use drugs)
    • connecting you with friends and accountability partners who care about their physical health and overall wellness

    Once you complete treatment, continuing to exercise regularly can help you maintain long-term recovery.

    Mindfulness Activities 

    Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of the present moment. It involves acknowledging where you are and how you feel without judgment. 

    Popular activities that promote mindfulness include:

    • meditation, in which you focus on your breath, notice thoughts and feelings when they arise without judging them, and gently return your focus to your breath
    • yoga, which combines exercise, postures, meditation, and breathing techniques to help you become more aware of your body, breath, thoughts, and feelings
    • tai chi, which is a form of “meditation in motion” that involves gentle exercises, stretches, and breathing techniques 
    • journaling, where you can write down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judging them 

    Mindfulness activities can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. They can also improve your sleep quality and help you cope with unpleasant feelings and situations as you recover from addiction. That’s why most recovery centers offer at least one mindfulness activity. 

    Massage Therapy 

    Many people experience withdrawal symptoms as they adjust to life without drugs. Massage therapy can help treat some of the most common withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia (trouble sleeping), and body aches. 

    With fewer withdrawal symptoms, you face a lower risk of relapse. 

    In addition, massages improve circulation, which can help your body remove toxic substances more quickly. 


    Alongside massage therapy, some substance abuse treatment programs also offer acupuncture. This ancient relaxation technique involves inserting thin needles into certain areas of the body. 

    Causing little to no discomfort, the technique can improve circulation and promote an overall sense of well-being. It can also ease withdrawal symptoms, including body aches, nausea, and irritability. 

    An addiction treatment center may offer various types of acupuncture. However, the most popular type for addiction treatment is National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) Ear Acupuncture. It involves inserting one to five needles on certain points of each ear. 

    Nutritional Therapy

    In many cases, substance abuse depletes the body of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Without these nutrients, the body won’t be strong enough to recover from drug addiction. 

    Certain types of drug abuse lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. 

    For example, when withdrawing from opioids, you may experience diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, all of which can leave you dehydrated. You’ll then lose electrolytes, which are minerals your body needs. In this case, you should eat electrolyte-rich foods like spinach, beans, and avocados. 

    In a nutritional therapy program, a nutritionist will evaluate your substance abuse history, overall health, food allergies, and food preferences. Then, they’ll determine which foods you should eat or avoid to maximize your health and make recovery easier. 

    Experiential Therapy

    Whether inpatient or outpatient, most addiction treatment programs offer at least one form of experiential therapy. 

    This treatment modality uses expressive activities and tools to help you re-enact emotional experiences. The therapist then helps you examine and release any negative feelings surrounding the experience.

    The most common types of experiential therapy include:

    • art therapy, where you can express your emotions through painting, drawing, or any other type of art
    • drama therapy, where you can act out personal or fictional stories to express yourself and connect with others
    • animal-assisted therapy, where you can boost your relationship skills by interacting with horses, dogs, or other animals
    • adventure therapy, where you can build trust and confidence through exciting activities like zip lining, skiing, and mountain climbing 

    These holistic therapies can help you cope with painful memories and feelings that may have contributed to your substance use. They can also teach you how to build stronger, healthier relationships as you start your new life in recovery. 

    If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. We offer both traditional and holistic recovery options to help you take control of your life.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Harvard Health Publishing - Can exercise help conquer addiction?
    Harvard Health Publishing - The health benefits of tai chi
    U.S. Department of Homeland Security - Mindfulness Meditation
    U.S. National Library of Medicine - NADA Ear Acupuncture: An Adjunctive Therapy to Improve and Maintain Positive Outcomes in Substance Abuse Treatment
    U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Substance use recovery and diet

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