Content Reviewed by Cameron Bolish, M.Ed., CEO of PaRC

Effective treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders requires a combination of various treatment approaches. Typically, treatment works to address the connections — or lack thereof — between an individual’s mind and body. Most commonly, traditional therapy is used alongside medication to address these connections and to enhance the overall effectiveness of treatment.

Aside from mental and physical wellness, there is another aspect of wellness that must be considered during one’s recovery from addiction and other mental health problems: spiritual wellness. Often, additional treatment approaches must be utilized to address and strengthen one’s spiritual health. Holistic therapy does just that.

What is holistic therapy in addiction recovery?

Compared to other approaches that focus on treating a specific diagnosis or symptom, holistic therapy seeks to treat an individual as a whole. Further, the term “holism” refers to an approach that aims to understand how the mind influences behavior by addressing the whole person. Therefore, holistic therapy integrates mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health into treatment and recovery.

Holistic therapy mixes both traditional and non-traditional treatment approaches. Additionally, it involves a variety of different techniques within the treatment setting. Generally, holistic therapy focuses on increasing patients’ self-awareness so they can better understand the relationships between their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Examples of holistic therapy

Treatment facilities may use many different holistic practices as a part of their treatment programs. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Acupuncture
  • Music therapy
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Guided imagery
  • Reiki
  • Breathwork
  • Experiential therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Nutritional therapy

How does substance use affect the spirit?

Throughout the last several years, holistic therapy has been utilized with increasing frequency and effectiveness within mental health and addiction treatment programs. This approach stems from research that has shown that recovery from substance use requires more than just establishing sobriety.

When an individual exhibits patterns of chronic substance use, all aspects of their health more than likely struggle. As addiction to alcohol and other drugs grows stronger, an individual’s nutritional health inevitably deteriorates. Substance use also interferes with normal communication within the brain. Over time, an individual may begin to depend on substances to function normally. Mentally, they may feel controlled by their addiction, while physical withdrawal effects keep them coming back.

Just as addiction is a disease of the brain and body, it is also a disease of the spirit. At the heart of addiction often lies deeper and more complex issues than just chemical dependency. Unsurprisingly, some spiritually-related risk factors for substance use include:

  • Increased isolation and loneliness
  • Disconnection to a higher power
  • Little to no sense of a higher purpose
  • Low sense of belonging
  • Lack of social support

In the same way, repeated and/or chronic substance use can also perpetuate the issues listed above. Over time, an individual can begin to believe that their ability to function and exist is facilitated by their drug use. Recovery must use holistic healing means to help individuals reclaim their sense of purpose and direction without substance use acting as a factor.

What are the benefits of holistic therapy?

There are several reasons why holistic therapies are valuable for recovery. One of the most important reasons is that they can help prevent relapse by the following:

It helps patients discover the root causes of their addiction.

Experiencing long-lasting abstinence from alcohol and other drugs requires overcoming the root causes of one’s substance use. Non-holistic treatment approaches may only focus on treating an individual’s symptoms rather than identifying and overcoming root causes. As a variety of factors can influence substance use, individuals in recovery must address all such issues within their own lives. Holistic therapy can help individuals to do just that.

It complements traditional treatment approaches.

Although holistic therapies may not be enough to treat addiction on their own, they complement traditional treatments well. Certain treatment strategies, such as detox, may be required to secure initial sobriety. However, holistic therapies work to address spiritual and emotional health factors that may not necessarily get proper attention in traditional treatment. Therefore, holistic therapy can make evidence-based strategies even more effective.

It helps patients discover a deeper meaning for their sobriety.

Often, an individual’s motivation to secure sobriety is high within the first few weeks or months of sobriety. However, during long-term recovery, many people can lose sight of their reasons for getting sober in the first place. Holistic therapies can help individuals discover deeper meaning and purpose for their sobriety throughout their lives. Often, these types of therapies are not just useful during an initial treatment program, but they remain valuable throughout long-term recovery. If an individual loses motivation for abstinence, holistic practices can facilitate more meaningful connections.

Every holistic treatment approach has unique benefits. It is important to research different holistic methods before treatment so individuals can advocate better for their individual treatment and recovery journey.

Prevention and Recovery Center (PaRC) is a treatment facility that strongly values holistic therapy as a part of treatment and recovery from alcohol and drug use. We believe that addiction treatment must be addressed from every angle of wellness. To learn more about our treatment programs, call us at (713) 939-7272.