The holistic approach to health and wellness is based upon the belief that there are many interconnected aspects of an individual’s health status. The relationship between the mind, body and spirit is intertwined, thus when there is illness or disruption in any of these aspects, all are affected. Holistic treatment addresses the whole person (think whole = holistic), as wellness is only achieved when all aspects of self are healthy and functioning.
Regarding substance use recovery, holistic treatment methods include relaxation and spiritual care in addition to other evidence-based therapeutic approaches. Holistic methods go beyond clinical, medical and psychological treatment to help the individual achieve a peaceful state of mind, which can undergird their recovery progress with additional spiritual growth and awareness.
What are some examples of holistic treatments?
In combination with medical and psychological treatment methods most often associated with clinical settings, additional holistic treatment techniques have origins in Eastern spirituality and medicine. In recent years, these have been widely embraced in healthcare, mental health care and addiction treatment as an added dimension for treatment. Many practitioners now prescribe holistic methods alongside physical therapy, medication and psychotherapy to promote healing for a variety of conditions.
Some holistic treatments include:
- Breathwork: When we are stressed or anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly or even hold our breath. Focused breathing can help us quickly release that stress. There are various breathing techniques to try, but a favorite is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. This involves inhaling to the count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, and then slowly releasing all the breath to the count of eight. Repeat this five times to enjoy its calming effect.
- Mindfulness: The practice of mindfulness involves the intentional reining in of unsettling thoughts and focusing on the present moment. By training the mind to focus on the present, it prevents us from ruminating about things that keep us worried, stressed or off-balance. Mindfulness helps us to acknowledge the sensory experience of the here and now, which helps us relax.
- Yoga: One holistic activity that engages the mind, body and spirit is the ancient practice of yoga. Yoga involves executing slow, purposeful movements while focusing on the rhythm of breathing. Practicing yoga promotes flexibility, strength, muscle control and relaxation.
- Aromatherapy: Medicinal grade oils derived from plants and flowers are used for a holistic practice called aromatherapy. The essence of the particular oil has effects that are used to promote relaxation, stress relief, mood enhancement and other types of healing. Aromatherapy using the essential oils lavender frankincense, rose, chamomile and bergamot can help promote relaxation and improve mental health.
- Exercise: Ample research has confirmed the physical and psychological benefits of engaging in routine exercise. Exercise causes the brain to produce chemicals that lift mood, reduce stress, improve cognitive functioning, provide better sleep quality and improve physical fitness. In recovery, exercise gives more structure to the day when it becomes a routine activity, and may reduce the risk of relapse.
- Meditation or prayer: Spending some time each day in quiet solitude can help produce a calm, serene state of mind and also increase spiritual awareness. In that silent space of meditation or prayer, the individual trains their attention to focus on something outside themselves and connects with their higher power.
- Massage therapy: Therapeutic massage helps the body release serotonin and dopamine, while also reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Massage has both physical and psychological benefits when releasing muscle tension and toxins from the body. A deep relaxation massage targets the points on the body where we tend to hold our stress, and leaves the individual feeling calm and relaxed.
Holistic treatment methods add the all-important spiritual dimension to the recovery journey. When combined with evidence-based continuing care efforts, like psychotherapy and participation in a 12-Step community, holistic activities help to manage stress and further protect sobriety.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.