A Short Guide to Holistic Rehabilitation

When you’re looking into drug rehabilitation center options, you’re likely to notice that many describe themselves as “holistic.” You might be wondering what that actually means, and how it effects the overall addiction treatment.

In the most general terms, holistic rehabilitation refers to a program that treats the entire person, mind, body, and spirit. However, from there the definitions can get a little fuzzy. Often, a rehab center is considered holistic if it doesn’t use traditional models of addiction such as 12-step programs, psychotherapy, and group therapy or support groups. However, a growing number of “traditional” rehab centers are incorporating aspects of holistic treatment into their programs, so the lines are becoming more blurred.

Because there is no official definition of holistic when it comes to rehab centers, it’s important to carefully evaluate any program you’re considering determining what they actually mean by the term. That being said, there are some commonalities among centers that describe themselves as holistic, such as Elevate Addiction Services, chief among them a commitment to improving patients’ overall mental, physical, and emotional health to help them get, and remain, sober. In short, holistic rehab focuses on treating the underlying causes of addiction, not just the disease itself.

Aspects of Holistic Rehabilitation

What this holistic approach looks like can include multiple factors, often focusing on physical health and exercise, nutrition, complementary therapies, and self-expression. For instance, patients in centers following a holistic approach might have access to:

Fresh food. Many centers focus on serving fresh, organic foods and providing adequate nutrition for residents. Many offer classes in cooking and nutrition to give patients the skills they need to take better care of themselves after treatment.

Exercise. In addition to traditional exercise, which is proven to help support recovery by increasing levels of serotonin and endorphins released by the brain, holistic centers may offer swimming, biking, hiking, and other activities. Not only does the exercise improve physical well-being but giving patients the opportunity to overcome challenges and test their limits helps build confidence. Meditation exercise, including yoga or tai chi, is also typically a part of a holistic program, teaching patients relaxation and focus techniques that can help them curb cravings and handle triggers more effectively.

Alternative therapies. Although some holistic rehabilitation centers offer traditional psychotherapy in both individual and group sessions, alternative therapies are also on the schedule. Art and music therapy, for instance, are widely accepted forms of therapy, allowing patients an outlet for healthy self-expression. Some centers also offer equine therapy, giving patients the chance to work with horses as part of their recovery.

Complementary therapies. One area where holistic rehab centers diverge from more traditional programs is in the availability of complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, reiki, or massage. In some cases, these therapies are offered in addition to more traditional options, including medication, while in others, they are in lieu of traditional medicine. In either case, complementary therapies can help patients with anxiety, depression, pain and other issues.

These are just some of the features of holistic rehab centers. Individual programs vary, so consider the options carefully.

Is Holistic Right for Everyone?

It’s hard to argue that treating the whole person, and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, is not an appropriate course of action. After all, addiction often stems from concurrent mental illness, a lack of coping skills, or even in some cases, physical ailments.

That being said, for some people, an entirely holistic approach that eschews all medical intervention, including supervised detox or psychiatric medication, isn’t appropriate. Detox and withdrawal can be dangerous in some cases, and often requires medical supervision to prevent serious complications. In addition, some patients need medication to manage mental illness before they can focus on sobriety. With that in mind, a holistic program that only uses alternative or complementary therapies is only a good choice for those who have already gone through detox, and/or those who do not have any concurrent mental illnesses.

However, a holistic program that does combine traditional forms of treatment with other types of therapy can be very effective in helping patients develop better coping skills, learn to relax, and take better care of themselves, as well as keep them sober. Again, the key is finding the right program, and taking advantage of all it has to offer and being involved in the process of recovery.


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Written by HealthStatus Crew
Medical Writer & Editor

HealthStatus teams with authors from organizations to share interesting ideas, products and new health information to our readers.

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