Holistic Addiction Treatment Program: Does Holistic Recovery Work?

Last Updated: October 26, 2020

Authored by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Holistic alcohol treatment aims to bring the body, mind, and spirit of recovering addicts into alignment. Practitioners of holistic therapy focus on the person’s overall well-being while also helping with the physical symptoms that typically manifest themselves upon withdrawal. Read further to learn what holistic therapies, medicines, and activities are included in a typical holistic addiction treatment program.

Holistic Addiction Treatment Overview

Еmotional stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, broken spirit, and hostile environment are common barriers for one to break the cycle of substance addiction and recover physically and mentally. Holistic addiction treatment promotes an approach that helps addicts with:

  • reducing the perceived appeal of drug and alcohol use
  • strengthen their resistance to cravings
  • becoming physically active
  • improving self-confidence and social environment

Generally, a holistic addiction treatment program works a complex mental, physical, and spiritual model for treating substance abuse and addiction.

Effectiveness Of Holistic Recovery Programs

Holistic addiction treatment centers recognize that a key aspect of recovery is being physically and mentally healthy. Tangible healing is given by helping former addicts focus on proper nutrition. Statistics of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health show that more than a third of adults in the U.S. resort to some form of holistic medicine, and this tendency seems to be on the rise. But is holistic treatment a valid and reliable model of addiction recovery?Holistic medicine has proven to be more than a trend as more and more people avail themselves of this philosophy of treatment over time.

Holistic Therapies To Overcome Addiction

woman practicing meditation for addiction recovery

Holistic treatment uses herbal nutrition, meditation, and exercise to help people overcome their addiction. Holistic addiction recovery may include the following forms of therapy:

  • Aromatherapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Pain Management
  • Yoga
  • Guided meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Acupressure
  • Spiritual healing
  • Biofeedback
  • Neurofeedback
  • Herbal nutrition
  • Routine exercise
  • Shiatsu
  • Reflexology
  • Holistic Counseling
  • Bio-Bed Therapy

These are just some common techniques used in a holistic addiction treatment program. The most important similarity between them is that they are aimed at treating the whole person rather than only a separate element of their symptoms or behaviors. Likewise, good addiction treatment should address the entire person rather than just the aspect of their behavior.

Components of Holistic Addiction Treatment Program

Statistics from the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine indicate that there are many holistic methods that can be used to treat people. These approaches are broken down into five components that can each be applied consistently at various stages of addiction treatment.

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Eating
  • Environmental

These listed components of holistic treatment programs can be implemented during addiction recovery course in different ways. Here are some examples of ways by which holistic treatment routines can help at various stages of addiction therapy:

Reiki For Drug Withdrawals

 doing reiki treatment

One of these approaches involves reiki, the harnessing of the life force energy of the universe to make relaxation easier, and begin a process of physical healing. Reiki has proven to be helpful in alleviating some physical withdrawal symptoms.

Acupuncture To Accompany Detox

In many cases, therapies that a recovering addict would expect to be exposed to at a holistic recovery center, such as yoga and acupuncture, are utilized to augment more conventional addiction treatment therapies like medical detox and individual counseling.Some practitioners believe the optimum method of detox is to introduce a few new chemicals to the body as possible and to embark on a cleansing period, achieved through healthy eating habits and herbal supplements. A recovering addict might encounter a similar period of withdrawal at a holistic recovery center, but more natural methods will be applied, such as herbal remedies, rest, nutritional support, and massage therapy.

Physiotherapist doing acupuncture to ease deox
Holistically managed detox can equate to a less taxing and quicker withdrawal period with proper supervision in comparison to one person may attempt on their own or using prescription drugs. According to the practitioners, more medications can result in extended periods of toxicity and only put off the benefits of being completely drug-free.

Hypnotherapy For Relapse Prevention

Hypnotherapy is the combination of the psychological process of hypnosis with psychotherapy. Evidence has shown that people become more receptive to a suggestion by the hypnotherapist and are more likely to get a different perspective on their addictive behavior. Things that may have seemed initially impossible to achieve – such as breaking the habit of substance abuse – begin to look achievable. In the same way, hypnotherapy can be used to help the patient stay away from addiction relapse.

holistic therapist hypnotising bearded man

Hypnotherapy is not magic, and it is unlikely to perform to full effect after only one session. In this context, it is simply a formula to unlock the potential of the person to see past any perceived impossibility in breaking a habit of addiction.

Nutritional Therapy To Resist Cravings

Another importation approach relates to nutritional therapy – recovering drug and alcohol addicts suffer from unhealthy diets more than most of us. Many addicts find their substance of choice to be more important than a healthy diet, and the food they do consume may cause an adverse reaction in combination with the substances they are addicted to. This is why focusing on a healthy diet, and nutritional supplements as the individual is going through rehab can improve their outlook to a great extent.

nutritionist holistic doctor

Sometimes it will mean doing away with certain types of foods, such as those containing a lot of sugar. Other times it will mean adding herbal supplements that they need to heal their bodies.

Massage Therapy For Post-Recovery Care

Massage therapy is known for the effectiveness of releasing “feel-good” hormones in the body. After completing a drug rehab program, the patient is still very likely to experience a drop in dopamine levels in the body. Massage therapy focuses on the body’s pressure points, and by soothing these pressure points, the decrease in dopamine levels is significantly reduced. Therapeutic massages will also reduce anxiety and ease problems with sleep.

man having a professional massage

Can Traditional And Holistic Therapy Be Combined?

Many holistic treatment programs work with a holistically improved framework of more traditional treatment approaches, which can include:

Limitations Of Holistic Addiction Treatment

The approach of using holistic treatment as a solution for addiction treatment is not without its limitations. A major one being that it can be difficult to accurately gauge the extent to which an individual has integrated their bodies, spirit, and feelings in any holistic attempt at treatment. The fact is that there are no empirical standards that can be used to gauge if a person has successfully achieved this integration or not.
Additionally, on its own, holistic treatment is more of  a philosophy than an actual notion of treatment. The best results have been seen from situations where the approach is combined with actual existing psychotherapies. This brings up questions about just how much of an impact the addition of the treatment has on the healing process.
Finally, another limitation (to a lesser extent) of holistic treatment is the fact that it may require a change in lifestyle. Sometimes, effecting these changes may be unrealistic in the way that they affect aspects of the person’s life, depending on the sort of responsibilities that the person may have. One has to commit time, energy, and sometimes finances into making sure that the process is effective.

Choosing Holistic Addiction Treatment

A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Services indicates that a person’s satisfaction with a holistic addiction treatment program is a motivator to complete it, which is a critical factor in the long-term recovery. Holistic approach is known to be flexible and focused on positive emotions in recovering patients that help them to continue the treatment.

As it augments a more conventional rehabilitation strategy, holistic addiction treatment can provide a well-rounded program and prepare a recovering addict to become part of the outside world again with more emphasis on nutrition, peace, and relaxation.

Page Sources

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, https://nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm#hed1
  2. Breslin KT, Reed MR, Malone SB. An holistic approach to substance abuse treatment, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12924747

Published on: April 23rd, 2018

Updated on: October 26th, 2020

About Author

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery. He is graduated from the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed Zayed has a passion for writing medical and health care articles and focuses on providing engaging and trustworthy information to readers.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.


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