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The Importance of Holistic Addiction Treatment

by eocampom

When someone finds him or herself addicted to a substance it is often the end result of an attempt to self medicate emotional pain or emptiness through the use alcohol or drugs. The addiction is not the root problem, but is, in essence, the outward manifestation of some source of emotional suffering. To treat only the diagnosed addiction is an exercise in futility. Only by reaching the deeper recesses of the psyche, to explore the source of the need for the substance as a perceived tool for survival, can the addictive behaviors be changed and overcome.


Too often, addiction treatment is too weighted toward clinical measures while neglecting the whole picture: the mind, body, spirit, and soul of the person seeking treatment. On the other end of the spectrum, some treatment programs focus solely on the holistic treatment activities and ignore the clinical tools. Neither of these approaches will culminate in a successful long-term recovery. To accomplish that, a comprehensive, multi-modal program that blends evidence-based therapies with holistic activities is necessary. Better yet, the most effective programs provide a customized treatment plan that provides the clinical aspects of treatment with the specific holistic therapies that suit the unique recovery needs of each individual.


What is Holistic Addiction Treatment?


To understand the concept of holistic addiction treatment, consider how a car works. There are multiple systems that work in tandem to make a car function. A problem with any one major component can impact the ability of the car to operate. The car needs all systems functioning correctly or risks breaking down. People have multiple “components” as well, encompassing all aspects of our ability to function in a healthy, productive manner. When one of these important parts of our being, be it the physical, mental, or spiritual, is out of whack, we break down, too.


Holistic treatment addresses all aspects of the individual, or the “whole” person. It does this through a wide array of activities that induce relaxation and allow for a deeper probe into the underlying issues that may be contributing to the addictive behaviors. Holistic therapy weaves together all parts of the person, resulting in a fully operational “vehicle” that functions on all cylinders, instead of only focusing on the symptoms associated with the addiction.


Types of Holistic Addiction Treatment


Holistic treatment can come in a variety of forms. Whatever the activity, be it centered around experiential, spiritual, or medicinal, the goal is to reach a deeper state of relaxation and centeredness which can lead to important therapeutic breakthroughs in the recovery process.  Some of the different types of holistic addiction treatments might include:


  • Mindfulness meditation. This is the practice of purposefully focusing on the present and one’s breathing in order to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Uses a series of poses and stretches designed to bring harmony to the mind and body.
  • Guided imagery. Individual conjures up a mental image of something pleasing and uses this practice to promote relaxation.
  • Massage therapy. Therapeutic massage helps to release toxins and enhances overall relaxation.
  • The practice of journaling allows the individual to chronicle their feelings, thoughts, prayers, and experiences.
  • Art therapy. Some individuals favor the use of drawing or painting to express deep emotions.
  • A form of Chinese medicine using needles that helps alleviate physical and emotional pain.
  • Fitness therapy. Recreational activities that promote an increase in endorphins, which helps elevate mood.
  • Equine therapy. Individuals help in the care of a horse, by grooming, exercising, and feeding them, which promotes a sense of wellbeing and accountability.


Rehabs that offer these complimentary holistic activities have found that their clients are more engaged in the recovery process, leading to a better treatment outcome.


How Holistic Treatment Promotes Self-Examination


Psychotherapy remains the core engine of the recovery process, assisting clients, through individual and/or group sessions, identify distortions in thinking that have led to maladaptive responses, aka substance abuse and addiction. Not all clients, however, are comfortable opening up during therapy sessions, or may even tune out entirely. Others may derive a great deal of helpful insights and recovery tools from therapy sessions. Still others may benefit from the discussions in the therapy sessions, which can initiate a fresh perspective. However engaged a client is in the psychotherapy process, by accessing holistic treatment activities the self-exploration process is enhanced, and can aid in healing the pain points that lie deep within.


Self-examination is an often painful or uncomfortable experience. Past traumas that were never processed or treated can be very difficult to revisit. Other life events, such as grieving the loss of a loved one, divorce, job loss, a serious medical condition, or excessive stress at work or school, can lie at the root of addiction as well. Many people avoid confronting these difficult issues and try to manage the emotional pain they cause through drugs and alcohol. Holistic therapies can assist the client in delving into these issues, helping them identify what is making them sad or causing deep despair in their daily existence.


Holistic Therapy is a Complement to Traditional Clinical Therapy


The clinical components of addiction treatment are considered the mainstay of most rehab programs. These therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Solutions-focused therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management therapy, can provide clients with the roadmap to changing the self-destructive habits that have led to addiction. With consistent, ongoing therapy, clients learn new healthy thought processes and behavioral responses that are productive and life-affirming.


Holistic therapies add an additional layer to the therapeutic process, complimenting the traditional evidence-based therapies. These experiential activities help the individual go even deeper into their being, helping them discover who they are, what makes them tick, what they believe in, and what they want in recovery. Holistic therapy helps connect all aspects of the human person into a seamless whole. Together the two, the clinical therapy and the holistic therapy, work to bring about healing and cohesiveness to addiction recovery.


About the Author

John T. Kahal is the founder and C.E.O. of Capo By the Sea, a luxury rehab California, is an addiction and dual diagnosis treatment program located in South Orange County, California. After his own successful experience with the recovery process and journey, Kahal decided to create a unique program that was individualized for each client’s specific treatment needs.  Kahal’s passion to share his own positive experience with others, while being a living example of the freedom found in recovery, is what motivates him to guide clients toward their own stable, long-term recovery.


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