Wellness programs are important elements of any addiction treatment plan. While psychological therapies, tools, and skills are the foundation of addiction recovery, health and wellness activities are vital contributors to the mind and body. They promote a positive outlook and confidence, which help to maintain abstinence and overall wellbeing.

The benefits of exercise, nutrition, and other aspects of wellness cannot be underestimated in addiction treatment; however, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration emphasizes that continual improvement in health and wellness is a hallmark of progress toward recovery from substance abuse. When a body and mind feel healthy and strong, the need to use drugs or alcohol to feel good is diminished, and drug cravings are weakened. As such, incorporating wellness programs into treatment is another aspect of recovery and prevention of relapse.

A wellness program is set to meet the individual’s specific needs, based on the issues arising from that person’s drug abuse history, as well as any physical and mental ailments. For that reason, there are some steps to follow after entering a rehab program in order to customize a wellness program.

Step 1: Meet with a supervising doctor to determine wellness needs.

As described in a study from Current Psychiatry Reports, personalized treatment plans for rehab are beneficial in producing positive outcomes, and helping people stay engaged in treatment and on course for recovery. To promote customization of treatment, intake information is gathered from the individual upon admission to the treatment facility.

Once a person has entered rehab, time can be taken in reviewing specific health needs with the supervising physician. Physical information is noted, and tests are done as needed to check on both the individual’s health history and the specific effects that substance abuse has had both physically and psychologically. Some of the information that may be gathered includes:

  • Physical ailments or injuries, especially those caused or affected by drug abuse
  • Psychological conditions that may accompany substance abuse
  • Nutritional deficiencies and weight gain or loss
  • Severity of cravings and other details of substance abuse history

Through this information, the doctor can begin to develop a plan based on the individual’s needs, which can include an exercise or fitness plan, a nutritional plan, and other activities that promote physical and psychological wellness.

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Step 2: Determine nutritional needs.

Partly based on intake information and tests, and partly based on knowledge about the effects of the substance of abuse, the supervising doctor can diagnose nutritional deficiencies or issues with diet that can be considered when developing the wellness plan.

According to Medline Plus, some of the general diet and nutrition needs that arise after long-term substance abuse include:

  • Eating on a set schedule; avoiding snacking or missing meals
  • Sticking to low-fat foods
  • Getting enough protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber
  • Increasing intake of vitamins and minerals, including B-complex, A, E, and C vitamins and minerals like potassium, zinc, and calcium that are depleted through stress

When specific details of nutritional needs are known, a nutritionist can develop a meal plan that can be followed throughout the treatment process.

Step 3: Determine exercise needs.

Exercise can be beneficial throughout the treatment process, both to assist in managing the symptoms of withdrawal and in supporting improvement in general health and wellness during the rehab program. Exercise is not just good for dealing with physical health – a study from Public Health Nutrition demonstrates that physical health has a positive effect on mental wellbeing, contributing to overall wellness. Exercise can improve depression and anxiety, which both contribute to and result from drug abuse.

A variety of exercise types can be used to promote both physical health and mental wellness during addiction treatment, including:

  • Yoga
  • Cardio (running, biking, walking, etc.)
  • Weight lifting
  • Cross training
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics

By combining different types of exercise that meet the individual’s specific needs, the treatment team can help in improving the individual’s overall wellness and motivation. If exercise is not possible in the individual’s particular condition, physical therapy may be considered to provide similar benefits.

Step 4: Incorporate other holistic treatment elements.

Many treatment programs, at this point, will consider other complementary and alternative treatment types to improve physical and mental wellness. Based on the individual’s general health and wellness needs, there may be other treatment types that can support and benefit the medical and psychological treatments provided. According to the American Holistic Health Association, these might include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis

Alternative therapies might be considered as well, including art, music, or equine therapy. Not only do these provide benefits that complement the psychological therapies used in rehab, but they also provide their own wellness benefits by increasing self-confidence and happiness, and providing meaningful connection with the world around the individual.

Step 5: Build the wellness plan and integrate it into treatment.

For these different wellness techniques to have a positive effect on drug abuse treatment, they should be well coordinated with the overall treatment plan. To achieve this, specialists in all of these areas work together to build the wellness plan for the individual, making sure that all levels of the program support and complement the overall treatment program.

This technique of integrating all the elements of treatment so the providers and their separate plans work together to benefit the main treatment goals is highly recommended. One study from Psychiatry Information in Brief demonstrates that integrating wellness programs into the treatment plan with input from various professionals and oversight by a treatment leader helps to keep the individual on course with all areas of treatment, and also makes it easy to adjust treatment if needed.

Tweaking certain areas of the plan may be necessary, as the individual’s needs change, wellness improves, and abstinence is maintained.

Incorporating a wellness plan into the substance abuse treatment program takes planning and coordination. However, it is time and effort well spent for the individual in treatment. With the standard elements of treatment complemented by a wellness program, the individual can develop self-confidence, motivation, and hope to continue in recovery and maintain it in the months and years following treatment.

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