When you picture addiction treatment, does a room full of individuals sitting in a circle discussing with a counselor come to mind? Or maybe you see a one-on-one session with a therapist. Both group therapy and individual therapy are effective aspects of addiction recovery treatment, but experiential therapy offers a third option to holistically complement traditional forms of talk therapy.
The best addiction treatment programs offer many different forms of therapies, including programs designed to treat the whole person and individualized care. Widely used in many treatment centers, these holistic therapies provide many benefits, including getting recovery to stick long-term.
What is holistic addiction recovery?
Holistic therapy is a form of recovery that takes into consideration the whole person — i.e. the physical body, the mental spaces of the brain and heart, and the emotions and complicated feelings we all experience.
This is especially important in recovery programs where addiction commonly affects all parts of a person; just as the body’s systems suffer from overuse of substances, so, too, does one’s mental health and emotional state. Holistic medicine, sometimes called alternative medicine or experiential therapy, uses different therapies to treat all parts of a person to achieve the best and healthiest balance possible.
According to the American Addiction Centers, experiential therapies “get the individual involved in a process of interaction or creation that allows for the development of insight and realization into the nature of their inner thoughts, feelings, and experiences. These realizations, like the realizations that occur in various forms of talk therapy, allow the individual to develop insight and learning about their own nature, needs, and proactive methods to address these.”
Experiential therapy techniques
There are a number of holistic alternatives in addiction treatment which can be used to reach specific goals of getting clients to recognize and experience their thoughts, needs and emotions in unique ways. This includes art, dance and music therapy, mindfulness and even acupuncture.
Art therapy can help you express yourself using your creativity. Art therapy is especially useful when you’ve experienced trauma that’s difficult to talk about, giving you the means to express complex emotions without using words. Painting, sculpting, drawing and coloring are the creative outlets most utilized as alternative therapies for addiction treatment.
Mindfulness meditation helps reduce cravings, increase abstinence and alleviate emotional distress. Stress increases the likelihood of relapse, so treatment programs teach mindfulness meditation as a stress management technique. Mindfulness meditation helps you learn to control your stress levels by focusing on clearing the mind and staying in the present moment.
Meditation also encourages awareness of thoughts and feelings. It emphasizes the understanding that, even though some thoughts and feelings are unpleasant, they will pass, and feeling upset is okay and temporary.
Learning stress management and emotional awareness skills as part of alternative therapies for addiction treatment helps you fight cravings and stay sober and relaxed.
A recent study found that people in recovery reported an increase in their levels of happiness through music therapy. As part of alternative therapies for addiction treatment programs, when individuals with substance abuse disorders created music with a group through songwriting and analyzing lyrics, these activities were shown to foster positive emotional changes. Drumming has also shown positive results as a relaxation technique.
Dance therapy is a useful component of addiction treatment in a number of ways. The movement to music is associated with a decrease in anxiety, anger, depression and stress. Dance therapy uses movement to help the group and the treatment staff work with nonverbal communication and invigorating exercise to connect the people in the group, which encourages imagination and creativity to draw out emotions.
Dance therapy is also effective in increasing self-esteem by improving a person’s relationship with their own body, and strengthening participants’ efforts to overcome their struggles with addiction.
Acupuncture is a traditional form of Chinese medicine used to treat many different physical and mental health problems. Acupuncture is a safe method of alternative therapy that has only mild possible side effects, such as bruising or slight discomfort at the needle insertion site.
One study showed that acupuncture helped treat depression, and another study showed it’s an effective way to treat mood disorders. Yet another study reported that acupuncture helps ease the symptoms associated with both heroin and opioid withdrawal, in addition to reducing the risk of relapse.
Choose holistic addiction recovery
Consider alternative therapies for addiction treatment when you are researching addiction treatment and recovery options. Not only are they safe and medication-free, but they can also help maintain recovery for a lifetime.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we are here to help. Contact Silvermist Recovery to get in touch with a counselor today.