The Holistic Approach to Recovery from Addiction


The basis of holistic addiction treatment and rehabilitation service or holistic treatment programme to recovery is building individual needs, based on the whole person they are. But what does that mean in practice holistic treatment options in an in-patient rehabilitation programme?

Addicted People Should Be Defined by their Overall Well-Being

It is common for people to become defined by their illness. We can often be found referring to a person simply as a drug or alcohol addict, a diabetic, or haemophiliac, for instance. The condition and its symptoms — in our case addiction — becomes the exclusive focus of attention and, as a result, important dimensions of the patient and his or her life can be obscured, overlooked or trivialised. We risk missing something that may be critical to their achievement of recovery.

Holistic addiction treatment recognises that addiction doesn’t just affect one part of a person but every aspect of their life and being; body, mind and spirit, as well as their family and wider social network. It therefore makes no sense to focus narrowly on the condition defined as addiction without carefully considering every aspect of the personal and social context in which it has emerged and now thrives. In turn it will require the whole person to engage with recovery. People will need to learn to look after their body, mind and spirit.

The Holistic Treatment Centre

An holistic treatment centre combines and indeed integrates more conventional therapies with what are often referred to as complementary therapies. While a substance abuse treatment may ostensibly concentrate only on a particular area, it is understood that when being used in an holistic addiction treatment programme, it will make a contribution to the improvement of the overall well-being and therefore to recovery from addiction. 

For instance, Art Therapy may help inter-personal communication and better self-knowledge, while Massage Therapy may relieve nervous tension as part of stress management.

It is important that the holistic recovery team has at its disposal a range of complementary therapy options as not everyone will be drawn to and derive benefit from the same thing.

How Do Holistic Therapies Help?

There is as yet only a small amount of scientific evidence to support some of these holistic approaches to treatment. However, this is due in most cases to the fact that holistic research as an approach to substance abuse has still to be undertaken. Some, like animal-assisted therapies, have shown promise when it comes to lowering anxiety and depression and group-based Art Therapy to improving mental health. Early recovery is not without stressful challenges so any non-addictive stress-relieving activity, like meditation, is to be welcomed.

In the meantime such therapies have become popular in addiction treatment and as such have the added benefit of helping patients participating in recovery programmes, to stay actively engaged with the broader process. It would be wrong to ignore or discount patients’ self-reports of benefit while we wait for more systematically produced evidence.

If integrative holistic medicine has a mantra it is: we attend to all of you, not part of you.

Clinically Reviewed By


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