Holistic Approaches to Addiction Treatment

Treating substance use disorder is a serious business. Addiction is considered a disease, but there is more to it than simply treating the medical condition. After all, this is about the mind, body, and soul. It’s a tug-of-war that has the entire system turned up-side-down. This is why it’s imperative to treat the whole person because this is about a sentient being, a real living breathing person with a soul. 

All too often our industry forgets that which is quite unfortunate as individuals struggling with addiction get caught up in a never-ending emotional roller-coaster turning their lives into total chaos. So, what is the answer you ask? Well, a more holistic approach is needed, and it is something we focus on here.

In the famous ‘tear-jerker’ Hollywood movie “Patch Adams” there was a famous quote that sticks with us all. The quote is; “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

Whoever wrote that line must have been a really deep thinker, and really understood the human condition. This is what holistic approaches to substance use disorder and addiction are all about. Let’s talk.

What Are Some of the Types of Holistic Therapies for Addiction Treatment?

Holistic Therapy for substance use disorder includes things like music therapy, art therapy, movement therapy, expressive therapy, and/or spiritual therapies. Since each person is unique and each addiction has its own set of circumstances different holistic therapies work better on different people. 

The one underlining theme, of course, is to find something that takes the place of the destructive behavior of substance abuse. Alleviating some of the stress of life and replacing the behavioral patterns and substance with something else that still tickles the brain’s pleasure points and stimulates natural positive brain chemicals.

Holistic Music Therapy for Addiction Treatment

We all have favorite songs that strike a chord deep in our psyche, that bring back memories, that put us in an altered state of mood. Songs that we listen to on our exercise playlist to get us revved up for a workout. Music that puts us at ease, and makes us feel happy. 

Music therapy is much the same, and it can be listening to music or even making music with a musical instrument. In fact, the creativity that comes with making music stimulates brain chemicals that hit the very pleasure sensors that alcohol or drugs do, however, when creating music your mind uses its own brain chemicals. This literally creates the ultimate Win/Win (cite: 1).

Substance Use Disorder and Art Therapy Treatment

Artists involve themselves in creating from their mind’s eye onto the canvas or shaping a sculpture. This involves the spatial reasoning section of the brain. When activated brain chemicals are pumped into the region and allow for incredible visualization. The same visualization that allows someone addicted to see into the future, living their new life without addictions in the best versions of themselves (cite: 2). 

Visualization is the key to accomplishing goals, overcoming adversity and achieving actualization. Maxwell Maltz in his famous 1950s book “Psychocybernetics” explains why it is crucial to see yourself in advance, and why you must believe to achieve.

Art therapy has been proven to help improve visualization and enhance the spatial parts of our brains, which is why it is so highly recommended by holistic therapy experts helping those with addiction. 

Expressive Therapies for Treating Addiction

Expressive Therapies for treating substance use disorder include making music and art as described above but can also mean dance, movement, and drama (acting) as therapy. It’s simply amazing how well it works. It helps those dealing with withdrawal symptoms to refocus and readjust, getting their mind, soul and body back in synchronicity, working again as one.

Movement is great for retraining the body’s nervous system, releasing endorphins, elevating heart rates, and expressive movements in dance generate the natural brain chemicals firing up the happiness locations in the brain. Before long, one forgets about their addiction or need for the substance, as the brain is bathed in its own natural pleasure chemicals. 

Dance and Yoga are two very powerful expressive movement therapies. Many have found that long-distance running, high-intensity workouts can add another powerful layer of therapeutic reconditioning. Combining movement with expressive therapy changes a person’s outlook, self-esteem, and confidence to move forward into a new life, one without addiction (cite: 3).

How Are Holistic Therapies Used Along with Traditional Addiction Treatment?

Holistic Therapies are new but have had much success. Indeed, there are now many research studies with empirical evidence and proof of their validity in the substance use disorder treatment realm. Why do they work so well? Perhaps, the Patch Adam’s character was correct; we can treat the disease alone and disregard the person, but to do so is fool-hardy because real people are more than just another number or clinical case. To treat a person suffering from addiction we must take into consideration the whole person.

The lifestyle, stress, anxiety, and all of life’s challenges that gave way to the addiction in the first place needs to change, but you cannot help someone against their will. Using the holistic approach, the individual likes their new self and begins to enjoy being the unique person they are. They begin to learn of new interests, skills and what truly makes them feel good without the artificial stimulus of a substance (cite: 4). 

The holistic approach to dependency treatment individualizes treatment, it changes attitudes and helps us get back to being alive, being the sentient being we were made to be. Free spirits enjoying all the best life has to offer. The holistic therapy treatment helps us take our lives back, and enjoy the process as we get back to being one again – Mind, Body, and Soul.

References:

  1. “Treatment Strategy Profiles in Substance Use Disorder Treatment Programs: A Latent Class Analysis,” by Mary Bond Edmond, Lydia AletrarisMaria Paino, and Paul M. Roman. Published in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependency. 2015 June 9. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.05.047
  2. “An Holistic Approach to Substance Abuse Treatment,” by Kathy T. Breslin,Maria R. Reed &Sandra B. Malone. Published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, pages 247-251. September 2011. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2003.10400006
  3. “Exercise and Physical Activity in the Therapy of Substance Use Disorders,” by Elisabeth Zschucke, Andreas Heinz, and Andreas Ströhle. Publishes in the Scientific World Journal; Volume 2012, Article ID 901741, 19 pages. https://doi.org/10.1100/2012/901741. 
  4. “Revisiting Holistic Interventions in Substance Abuse Treatment,” by A. Christson Adedoyin and Heather M. Jackson. Published in the Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment in June 2014. 24(5):538-546. DOI: 10.1080/10911359.2014.914718
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