Six Ways Holistic Addiction Treatment Centers Are Not Your Typical Rehab Program

Tim Sonnet

Medically reviewed by

Tim Sinnott, MFT

April 26, 2019

Article Contents

6 Ways Holistic Treatment Differs From Traditional Rehab

Article Contents

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), frequent use of drugs causes significant changes in the brain to the point where it is difficult for a person to function without using drugs. The use transitions into drug addiction at this point, a chronic disease that causes people to continue to seek and use drugs despite many negative consequences in their lives. Although the initial drug use is voluntary, continuing to take them becomes compulsive and involuntary over time. The NIDA agrees that while giving up drugs is not easy, addiction treatment centers that address several core issues can greatly improve an addict’s chance of recovery.

 Principles of an Effective Drug Treatment Program

Holistic addiction treatment centers and traditional drug treatment centers often share the same basic philosophies and goals for treatment. It is the approach that the different types of heroin addiction recovery centers take in treating addiction that differs so greatly. Before addressing those differences, consider that helping a person stop using drugs, avoid relapse, and become a productive member of society is the primary goal of most treatment centers across the United States. To achieve this, the NIDA has adopted the principles outlined below and encourages each recovery treatment center in the United States to adopt them as well.

  • Although addiction is a complex disorder that affects a person’s behavior and brain functioning, it is treatable with the right combination of physical, emotional, and spiritual support.
  • Even though addicts often have to experience devastating consequences to realize the impact of continued drug use, treatment can still be effective even when it is not voluntary.
  • The NIDA acknowledges that no specific type of recovery treatment center is right for every person who struggles with addiction. This belief is what led to the formation of holistic drug treatment programs in the first place.
  • Supervising addicts through the detox process is only the beginning of recovery from drug abuse. It is essential that heroin addiction recovery centers offer ongoing supervision to ensure the person’s safety and to prevent him or her from gaining access to any other drugs.
  • Addicted individuals need to get into a treatment program quickly and remain in it long enough for it to be effective. This can be as long as 90 days or even longer in cases of severe addiction.
  • The most effective treatment programs offer mental health evaluations and considers all patient needs, not just the presenting drug addiction. A holistic recovery treatment center is more likely than any other type of treatment program to consider how drug addiction affects a person at every level and offer programs to address individual needs. Some examples include physical fitness requirements, nutritional counseling, and the practice of alternative therapies such as yoga. However, addressing spirituality in a holistic drug treatment setting does not mean that the counselors insist the addict believe in a higher power.
  • Teaching behavior modification techniques to addicts while also offering group and individual counseling is an essential component of an effective treatment program.
  • Retaining flexibility while a patient completes an outpatient or inpatient program at addiction treatment centers is crucial. Counselors must review each patient’s treatment plan frequently and adjust it as his or her needs change throughout the duration of the program.

It is the modalities of treatment, not the core operating principles themselves, that make such a stark contrast between a holistic drug treatment program and a traditional drug treatment program. People who do not find success with the standard methods of treating drug addiction often find greater success with a recovery treatment center that focuses on the whole person and uses holistic methods to help him or her achieve continued abstinence from using drugs.

Holistic Healing

Understanding the Concept of Holistic Healing

Addiction is not the only field in healthcare that takes a holistic approach to helping people heal using non-traditional methods. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), practitioners from multiple disciplines such as chiropractors and movement therapists support the whole person approach also used in holistic addiction treatment centers.

The term whole person approach means that the practitioners address the emotional, nutritional, physical, and spiritual needs of an addicted person. This differs from the traditional drug treatment approach that primarily attempts to break a person’s physical addiction to a drug without considering his or her entire life experience and its contributing factors to drug addiction. These programs can put religious pressure on a recovering addict to believe in a specific representation of God even though program literature may outwardly state it has a spiritual rather than a religious component.

The desired outcome of a holistic treatment program is ultimately to help patients take ownership of their own recovery from drug addiction as well as improve their physical and emotional health. This involves using a range of both alternative and traditional therapies.

Contrary to what some people may believe about holistic drug treatment centers, the administrators are not against using conventional types of therapy when they benefit the patient. What makes these centers different is that counselors will also use alternative treatments independently or in conjunction with standard treatments. Holistic drug addiction treatment emphasizes an individualized approach rather than assuming that one type of therapy should work for everyone.

Holistic Program Components Typically Not Used by Traditional Programs

The above information offers broad concepts on the principles of all drug treatment programs and the different treatment approach of holistic programs. Below are six specific ways in which the two types of programs differ.

Nutritional Assessment and Recovery

As critical as proper nutrition is to a person’s overall well-being, the typical drug counselor at a traditional treatment center never considers it. Integrating sound nutritional principles into a recovery program is common when an addicted person enrolls in a holistic recovery treatment center. Unfortunately, it is all too common for a person addicted to drugs to have a poor nutritional status as well.

Without nutritional intervention, the addict will continue to struggle with irritability, spikes and drops in blood sugar, food cravings that can be as intense as drug cravings, and a decreased ability to digest food properly. This can increase the likelihood of relapsing into active drug addiction. After assessing the current diet of the addicted person, nutritional counselors assist him or her with developing a healthier eating plan that leads to better health and supports long-term recovery from drug addiction.

 Emphasis on Physical Fitness

Another benefit of a patient improving his or her nutritional status is that it provides more energy to participate in regular exercise and physical fitness activities. A core component of a holistic approach to drug addiction is incorporating intense physical movement into everyday life. However, that does not mean that a recovering addict with a limited budget must pay monthly dues at a gym. Going for a hike, dancing, or playing basketball or football with a friend is equally beneficial as the more formal types of exercises.

 Practicing Mindfulness

Achieving a state of mindfulness is becoming more challenging all the time in an always-connected society. It is all too easy to lose hours every day surfing the Internet or playing games on a smartphone. For people already prone to addiction, these habits can become substitute addictions for drugs.

The term mindfulness stems from an ancient Eastern practice that simply means to live in the moment. While practicing mindfulness, recovering addicts relax, breathe deeply, and allow distractions to leave their mind. Mindfulness is also a useful tool after completing a program at a holistic recovery treatment center to help deal with the multiple stressors of life.

holistic drug treatment

 Working Towards a Substance-Free Life

Some people enter a holistic drug treatment program with prescriptions for dozens of medications. However, when they stop using drugs, start eating better, and incorporate exercise into the everyday routine, many of these prescription medications become unnecessary. One of the main goals of a drug treatment center that uses a holistic approach is to help people live a life completely free of any type of chemicals. While this may not be entirely possible with some types of health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, holistic programs strive to eliminate as many substances from the client’s life as possible.

Exercise, proper nutrition, and a variety of alternative therapies are often the best type of treatment for a health condition. Even so, people who research holistic heroin addiction recovery centers do not have to worry about suddenly coming off any medication. Staff members always work in coordination with a patient’s doctor before allowing him or her to discontinue taking any type of prescription.

Meditation and Adjustment of Breathing Patterns

The breathing patterns that people develop throughout life can have a huge impact on their mood, ability to concentrate, energy level, and the degree to which stress affects them. Recognizing this, the staff of holistic drug treatment programs teach recovering addicts new breathing techniques that can help them better cope with the demands of life.

Meditation often goes hand-in-hand with breathing exercises in a holistic drug treatment environment. This practice allows participants to focus on their breathing while allowing stress and tension to leave their bodies. Meditation also promotes greater relaxation and clarity while activating the pleasure centers in the brain to bring about a sense of optimism and peace.

It is common for several people staying at a holistic drug treatment center to participate in group meditation in an environment of calm acceptance. The NCCIH states that using these techniques after returning home can help people recovering from drug addiction avoid giving into the cravings and temptations that are sure to come their way.

 No Reliance on 12-Step Programs

Ever since Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith started the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930s as a way to handle their own problem drinking, it has been at the core of most alcohol and drug treatment programs in the United States. Other groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), have adapted the program to the needs of its members.

In the decades since, counselors in most American treatment programs have insisted that the only way addicts could recover was to live by the 12 steps for the rest of their lives. Having a sponsor, sponsoring others, and attending several meetings per week are typical requirements of 12-step programs. Additionally, 12- step programs require that a person rely on a higher power, something that not everyone can summon the belief to do. The prevailing belief of these programs is that addiction is a lifelong disease that an addict can only achieve recovery from one day at a time.

While holistic drug treatment programs also view addiction as a disease, that is where the similarity between the two stops. Program facilitators believe that a person can recover from drug addiction permanently and that the currently accepted belief of remaining an addict for life is groundless.

Rather than force vulnerable people trying to overcome drug addiction into believing in God or another higher power, holistic drug treatment programs give them the tools they need to affect change in their own lives. That means they learn to call on their own strength and use the techniques they have learned to steer their lives in a different direction. While participants attend meetings in holistic drug treatment programs, there is no religious component to them whatsoever. Instead, these meetings are educational in nature and allow those attending them to ask questions at the end of the presentation.

This alternative approach to coming off drugs and living a healthy lifestyle without them is open to people from any ethnic, socioeconomic, spiritual, or religious background. Although not everyone enters a holistic drug treatment through their own free will, they must be willing to accept the consequences of active addiction and work hard to achieve a better life for themselves once there.

This page does not provide medical advice.
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Tim Sonnet

Medically reviewed by

Tim Sinnott, MFT

April 26, 2019

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