Substance use disorders are a common issue in the United States, and the problem has recently gotten worse during the opioid crisis of the last few years. Because the problem of addiction is common and growing, there are a variety of approaches to treat the disease, and researchers, doctors, and clinicians are still looking for more. Holistic treatments have risen as an option for people that seek addiction treatment, but are therapy options like meditation and yoga actually effective? Learn more about holistic addiction treatment, and it’s efficacy.

What is Holistic Treatment?

Holistic treatment, in the context of addiction, refers to the use of alternative therapies like yoga, acupuncture, and meditation.

Alternative therapies are widely used in addiction treatment centers all over the country, and these treatments range from the familiar to lesser-known strategies like equine therapy. Holistic is a term that refers to therapies that treat the “whole person,” including both the mind and the body.

Holistic therapies are often alternative to evidence-based therapies, which refers to treatment options that have been studied and proven effective in scientific research. However, holistic options are often used alongside evidence-based therapies as a supplement.

Is Holistic Therapy Effective?

Holistic therapies can refer to many therapy options, some of which are more effective than others. For the most part, holistic approaches that aren’t shown to be evidence-based, may not be effective in treating substance use problems on their own. Also, they may not be necessary for treatment to be effective. However, they can enhance addiction treatment by complimenting proven therapy options. For instance, yoga, meditation, art therapy, and other options may provide a way to relieve stress and encourage openness and enthusiasm in other forms of therapy. While not every alternative therapy option is good for each person that comes through treatment, having those additional options can help .

However, alternative holistic therapy options are not effective replacements for evidence-based approaches like cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. While treatment centers that offer holistic options as a way to supplement evidence-based therapy, facilities that exclusively provide and encourage alternative treatment may be ineffective.


Benefits of Holistic Treatment

One of the clearest benefits of holistic treatment is that it can increase patient buy-in.

Plants and containersMany people seek addiction treatment because they believe it’s time for them to get the help they need. But not everyone in treatment necessarily sees a need for it. According to the National Institutes on Drug Addiction, treatment doesn’t need to be voluntary to be effective.

That means courts can order people to attend treatment instead of serving jail time.

Other people may agree to go to treatment just to appease their parents. In both cases, treatment can be effective, but therapists might need to work on the person’s readiness to change.

Buy-in refers to a person’s belief that treatment is necessary, potentially effective, and worth doing. Therapies like yoga, art therapy, music therapy, and others may offer people with enjoyable, positive experiences in treatment.

Traditionally, spiritual needs are addressed through 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

However, alternative therapies may provide other options in addition to this common approach. It may also help people that are fatigued by chronic relapse engage in new treatment approaches.

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