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Holistic Healing: Techniques for Substance Use Disorder

It used to be that addiction treatment was a pretty limited proposition. Someone struggling with alcoholism or dependence on drugs could join a 12-Step program such as Alcoholics (or Narcotics) Anonymous, take medication that made them violently ill if they consumed alcohol, spend untold hours in therapy, or pray the problem away.

Many dedicated treatment facilities continue to rely heavily on these methods – but more and more, holistic treatment modalities are being embraced by addiction experts and counselors. Let’s take a closer look at what “holistic” means and how it can play out for someone entering recovery.

Let’s take a closer look at what “holistic” means and how it can play out for someone entering recovery when dealing with substance use disorder.

What is Holistic Healing or Treatment?

Holistic simply means taking a “whole person” approach to healthcare, whether the issue at hand is chronic pain, cardiovascular issues, or substance addiction. In other words, the practitioner focuses not only on the physical symptoms but also on the psychosocial and emotional aspects of disease or pain.

This whole-person approach is effective because the mind-body connection is a two-way street. We manifest and store emotion in the body. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach? Been so angry that you feared a heart attack was imminent? Fainted or fell to your knees upon hearing tragic or shocking news?

Healing the body means more than just surgery, medication, or physical therapy. It also requires addressing underlying trauma, perceptions, or deep-seated negative feelings. Healthy lifestyle changes and habits, like eating well, practicing mindfulness, and exercising are also important to holistic healing.

The Challenge of Comorbidity

Comorbidity – having two or more illnesses or disorders simultaneously – is also common among addicts. About half of all people with a substance use disorder also experience mental illness. This is also called having a dual diagnosis, and as you might imagine, it can complicate treatment.

Not all treatment programs consider comorbidity as carefully as they could. Holistic approaches, however, will look at mental illness, lifestyle, childhood (or adult) trauma, addiction, socioeconomic factors, and physical health with equal emphasis. In this way, they truly see the entire person and can get to the root of the problem(s).


Holistic Healing Offers Many Possibilities

One of the greatest advantages of holistic addiction treatment for women is that it comprises a variety of different modalities. Before choosing a treatment facility, check to see what types of therapy they offer. Here is just a smattering of what you might find:

  • Yoga and tai chi
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Massage, acupuncture, or reiki
  • Spiritual therapy
  • Wilderness therapy
  • Equine therapy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Expressive arts therapy
  • Trauma resolution therapies such as EMDR or EFT
  • DBT or CBT
  • Life skills and stress management techniques

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and of course not every center offers all of these. Some treatment programs specialize in a particular modality, such as Eastern medicine or outdoor adventure therapy. You can also find facilities focused on women, members of the LGBTQ community, or Black and Latinx individuals – all of whom may have higher rates of addiction as well as additional barriers to treatment.


Is a Holistic Program Right for You?

Chances are you already know if this approach is up to your alley or not. You may even have experience with some of the commonly used therapies; if you used to be (or still are) a yogi, artist, athlete, active churchgoer, or outdoors enthusiast, that interest might make your decision relatively easy. In other cases, someone struggling with addiction may simply “get a feeling” that a particular modality will resonate with them.

It’s best to go into holistic treatment with an open mind and heart, as well as a sincere desire to strive for sobriety. Choosing a path that can help make life richer, fuller, and more worth living is the first step on the road to recovery


This post contains affiliate links and I may receive a commission, at no additional cost to you, should you purchase through one of my links. Please see my disclosure for more information.

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TWL Working Mom

Jennifer is the Owner of TWL and Co-Owner of a Influencer Facebook Group Influential Mamas.  Along with blogging + freelance writing and selling Zyia Activewear, she is a mom, army wife and full-time teacher. Jennifer lives in Washington State and is a born + raised New Yorker. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, the beach, writing, listening to books and drinking coffee.

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