Holistic Therapy: Definition, Examples, & Who Can Benefit
Holistic therapy is often used as a supplement to traditional addiction treatment, as it works to help treat the person on the whole, rather than focus on just one area of their being.
This article will dive deeper into what holistic therapy/holistic healing counseling is, how it works, and how it can benefit you or a loved one in recovery.
What Is Holistic Therapy?
Holistic therapy is a form of therapy for various medical and emotional disorders and involves approaches that are outside of conventional, mainstream treatment. It takes a whole person approach that emphasizes not looking at just any one aspect of a person’s health, but instead, improving and treating all the aspects of one’s life.1
In drug and alcohol rehab, practitioners may use an integrated approach that combines more conventional addiction treatment therapies with alternative therapies, such as using psychotherapy and medication along with acupuncture and yoga.1
How Holistic Therapy Works
Ideally, holistic therapy works as a result of a collaboration between a professional and the individual in treatment. They come together to develop an individualized treatment plan that includes both traditional and alternative therapies, such as holistic therapy. The holistic approach will utilize scientific approaches, focus on prevention when possible, and harness the power of the body to heal itself.2
Overall, the goal of holistic therapy is to help a person gain a greater understanding of themselves and increase self-esteem and self-confidence.3
What Does a Holistic Therapist Do?
Holistic therapists focus on a person’s physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.2 They might use expressive arts, using dance, art, or music to work with people, or use mindfulness practices, including meditation and relaxation techniques, as well as physical approaches such as yoga or Tai Chi.2
Holistic Therapy for Addiction Treatment
Holistic therapy is often incorporated into addiction treatment through various approaches that address the complete person.2
Many substance use disorder treatment programs use a holistic approach and complementary treatment modalities, such as art therapy, Tai Chi, dance therapy, recreational activities, and spiritual support and development.3
Other programs incorporate at least some types of holistic or alternative therapies, including yoga and mindfulness.4,5
In many integrated approaches to addiction treatment, conventional therapies, such as medication and psychotherapy, are used along with alternative treatment modalities, such as yoga or mindfulness.1
This holistic approach to treating substance use disorders can help achieve long-term recovery, because addressing a person’s specific social, medical, psychological, and environmental needs is critical for effective treatment outcomes.6
Examples of Holistic Therapies Used in Addiction Treatment
Numerous therapies might be used in addiction treatment, and the most effective programs will create a personalized treatment plan that meets each patient’s individual needs.2 Some examples of the more commonly used holistic therapies used to help treat addiction include:
- Mindfulness incorporates techniques such as meditation that affect regulation, which means they can help a person accept distressing emotions and is thought to help reduce the urge to use substances.4
- Yoga, uses relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, and certain physical poses that all work together to focus on improving the health of both mind and body.5
- General types of exercise, such as walking or aerobics.
- Expressive therapies, such as dance, music, or art, can be used to help treat substance use disorders. For example, a program used an art project to help participants express their life events related to the initiation of substance use.7
What Does Holistic Therapy Treat?
Holistic therapy is highly regarded as one of the many ways to treat addiction.4,5 However, holistic therapy modalities are also used to treat a wide array of conditions.1 For example, Tai Chi, a body movement technique that incorporates gentle movements, mindfulness, and breathing techniques, might also be used to help prevent falls in older people.8
Yoga is often used to help people manage pain, as well as a way to help relieve fatigue in breast cancer survivors, for example.1 Meditation has been used to treat insomnia, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome.1
Many co-occurring mental health disorders are also treated with various holistic therapies, including:
- Yoga is used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as to help people manage overall stress.1
- Yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, and Tai Chi, are all used to treat PTSD.9
- Relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation and guided imagery, are used to help anxiety and depression.10
- Dance/movement therapy has been used to help treat schizophrenia, showing improvements in processing emotions that can’t be expressed verbally, as well as improving interpersonal skills.11
Benefits of Holistic Therapy for Treating Substance Use Disorders
In treating substance use disorders, holistic therapy can be a helpful experience. For example:
- Yoga is effective in decreasing substance use, as well as decreasing anxiety in people with substance use disorders.5
- Mindfulness approaches help improve emotional regulation, which may in turn make it easier for people to avoid substance use.4
- Exercise can help improve sleep, increase positive emotions, reduce stress, and increase self-esteem, all of which can help a person manage a substance use disorder.2
- Interactive, expressive therapies, such as music can help people in substance use disorder treatment be able to release emotions. Some other modalities, such as a group-based art project, can increase listening skills and help participants feel more comfortable with social interaction and support.7
How Effective Is Holistic Therapy?
Research suggests that holistic therapy can be effective when used as part of an overall, comprehensive treatment plan that also incorporates more traditional, evidence-based therapies.
A review of eight different studies on yoga as an intervention in addiction treatment demonstrated the positive impacts of yoga on anxiety, pain, and substance use.5
Recent studies of expressive arts indicate that these holistic therapies can improve rates of program completion.7
Evidence also supports the use of physical exercise and meditation or mindfulness in addiction treatment, specifically for methamphetamine, cocaine, and other stimulant use disorders.12
Multiple studies have shown that, when combined with contingency management, mindfulness-based practices can lead to better treatment outcomes, including higher program completion and abstinence rates, reduced depression, less severe addictions, and lower odds of stimulant use.12
When used alongside other therapies for meth addiction, physical activity (e.g., strength training and aerobic exercise) can help improve depression, anxiety, drug use, and cravings.12
Additionally, many of these interventions can build healthy habits a person can continue with after treatment. For example, exercise interventions can encourage the development of long-term health habits that have ongoing positive impacts on recovery and health.2
Holistic Therapy for Addiction Treatment at Oxford
At Oxford, our sprawling Mississippi rehab facility offers a wide range of holistic and complementary therapies for addiction, including:
- Art therapy.
- Music therapy.
- Equine activities.
- Recreational activities (e.g., ropes course, hiking, fishing, volleyball, fully equipped gym, and more).
These practices are typically used in combination with our more conventional, evidence-based approaches.
Patients can work with their treatment teams to determine the alternative therapies that may be most appropriate and beneficial for their specific needs.
Drug Addiction Treatment Therapy Near Etta, MS
If you or your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, call Oxford today to start the path to recovery. Our inpatient drug and alcohol rehab in Mississippi offers quality programming with personalized treatment plans designed to meet the individual needs of each patient.
Begin the healing process by reaching out to us at today.
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