Holistic Treatment

Holistic treatment is composed of several nontraditional therapies intended to treat all facets of a person’s health. Many rehab centers have incorporated alternative therapies into treatment plans to enhance addiction recovery. These approaches aim to increase an individual’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
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The body comprises interdependent parts that influence one another. Physical pain can lead to mental anguish, and emotional distress can cause sleeping problems and anxiety. If all of a person’s needs are not addressed, chronic health disorders such as addiction can be difficult to overcome.

Holistic treatment is a set of therapy approaches that target all aspects of a person’s health — the body, the mind and the spirit. These programs use natural methods to treat drug or alcohol addiction.

The traditional model of substance abuse treatment focuses on counseling, 12-step meetings and other supportive services. But holistic treatment also integrates complementary therapies such as meditation and acupuncture to address underlying causes of addiction.

Nanci Stockwell of Advanced Recovery Systems suggests ways to incorporate alternative therapies into a person’s recovery plan and stresses the importance of finding the right therapies for each individual.

Holistic therapies focus on the patient’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Paying attention to each aspect may expedite recovery and create a more stable body and mind.

Why Is Holistic Treatment Important?

Addiction affects many aspects of a person’s health. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction can cause problems to the cardiovascular, respiratory and musculoskeletal systems. Substance use disorders can also lead to overdose and death.

But addiction is a disease that changes the brain. In addition to physical problems, this disorder can result in mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Many people simultaneously experience addiction and mental health problems.

Holistic treatment addresses myriad physical, emotional and spiritual issues associated with addiction, from physical health to spiritual wellness.

Generally, holistic therapies can:
  • Treat pain
  • Reduce tension
  • Decrease stress, depression and insomnia
  • Improve self-care

According to the American Holistic Health Association, holistic medicine educates clients and encourages them to actively participate in their own recovery. Through the holistic philosophy, individuals suffering from addiction learn to protect many areas of their health.

Is Holistic Treatment Effective?

Research has found that holistic therapies can enhance addiction recovery when combined with traditional substance use disorder treatments and self-help groups. These complementary therapies can provide additional tools to support people in recovery.

A 2013 study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence showed that holistic treatment may be effective in treating smoking addiction. In a review of 14 clinical trials, researchers found that yoga and meditation-based therapies showed promise in improving smoking cessation.

And according to a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, holistic treatment is efficient in treating chronic illnesses such as mental health disorders and other health-related problems.

In the United States, holistic treatment is growing in popularity.

More than 30 percent of American adults and about 12 percent of children have used some form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to a 2016 report by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Results from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey showed that the most common complementary health approaches among adults included natural products, deep-breathing exercises and meditation practices such as yoga.

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Types of Holistic Therapies

Holistic therapies help individuals achieve optimal health by healing all aspects of a person’s well-being. Many holistic treatment modalities exist, and people around the world use these therapies to treat various health problems.


Meditation is a mindfulness technique that involves relaxing the body and mind. The activity has shown to reduce anxiety, depression, pain and poor sleep — which are all factors that influence substance use. Meditation can also increase concentration and help people feel more at ease.


Yoga is another popular mindfulness activity. The technique uses breathing modulations, body postures and meditation to heal a person’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Yoga experts say the activity increases neurotransmitters in the brain, which helps relieve stress and anxiety.


Acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into specific points in the body to alleviate pain or treat various health conditions. When used with addiction treatment, acupuncture may help reduce anxiety, cravings, irritability and withdrawal symptoms.


Physical activities such as running, playing sports and weightlifting can assist individuals in reducing stress, increasing self-confidence and improving mood. Many treatment centers offer recreational exercise activities, such as basketball or volleyball.

Art Therapy

Art therapy employs painting, drawing and modeling to encourage self-expression. Through art therapy, people can help manage behaviors, assuage emotional conflict, increase self-awareness and develop social skills. It can also increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety.

Nutrition Therapy

Maintaining a healthy diet can help people overcome addiction. Eating healthy and staying hydrated can invigorate the mind and body and may expedite recovery. Many treatment centers incorporate healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks into treatment plans.


Aromatherapy uses aromatic essences naturally extracted from plants to promote a healthier body, mind and spirit. Also known as essential oil therapy, aromatherapy often uses various essential oils to increase relaxation and reduce stress.


Religion and spirituality can strengthen addiction recovery. Through prayer, people can gain a greater sense of awareness and connection to a higher power. Prayer can also decrease stress, reduce feelings of powerlessness and provide a sense of optimism.

Additional integrative modalities include massage therapy, tai chi, music therapy, naturotherapy and Pilates. Research has indicated that acupuncture, neurofeedback and meditation significantly improve addiction treatment success rates.

How Do I Know if a Rehab Has Holistic Treatment Programs?

Complementary and alternative medicines are generally considered safe when performed under medical supervision. As research on the efficacy of holistic therapies in treating chronic disorders has progressed, more treatment centers have incorporated these practices into their curriculum.

For example, The Recovery Village Columbus in Ohio treats addiction and co-occurring disorders at the same time. The facility also offers complementary treatment practices such as yoga therapy, aromatherapy, art therapy and equine therapy, which allows clients to care for horses.

To find out if a rehab center offers holistic therapies, contact a nearby treatment center. Admissions representatives can provide information about treatment approaches and the types of complementary therapies offered.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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