Differences Between Holistic and Traditional Addiction Treatment

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. One approach that works for one individual might not be a good fit for someone else. Fortunately, there are a variety of effective evidence-based addiction treatments available. This article will explore both holistic and traditional approaches to substance use disorder treatment.

Holistic Approaches to Addiction Treatment

Taking a holistic approach to addiction treatment simply means treating the disease by addressing the mind, body, and spirit as a whole. The main belief behind holistic medicine is that these three components are all interconnected, and when one is unbalanced, it causes problems in the others. According to the American Holistic Health Association, a holistic approach to recovery integrates both alternative and conventional therapies to promote recovery.

Different Types of Holistic Addiction Treatment

There are dozens of holistic ways to treat addiction and people often try a variety of natural or holistic approaches simultaneously, as well as implement them into a traditional treatment program. Some common holistic treatments that are offered at inpatient addiction treatment in New Jersey include:

  • Acupuncture is a popular holistic way to treat addiction. This ancient form of Chinese medicine consists of inserting tiny needles into specific points on the body in order to restore balance and promote healing. Acupuncture should only be done by a professional, but it is a valid form of treatment in the eyes of the many medical insurance providers that cover it.
  • Hypnosis is another popular way to treat the psychological contributors of addiction. The term hypnosis refers to a natural state of focused attention that can be produced by a therapist or individuals themselves. During hypnosis, the mind becomes more receptive to certain ideas that align with the client’s ultimate goals. Though hypnosis may not be effective at treating addiction on its own, some people have claimed to have success with it after combining it with other more traditional treatment approaches.
  • Massage therapy can treat a variety of ailments because it reduces stress, relieves anxiety, and promotes relaxation. According to the American Psychological Association, stress weakens the immune system, which makes the body more susceptible to disease in general. When it comes to addiction in particular massage therapy can help provide relief and subsequently minimize the effects of other related psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Art therapy can help individuals in treatment work through the sometimes complex emotional landscape that can accompany early recovery work. Additionally, art therapy has been proven to reduce opposition to treatment, reduce feelings of shame, and help motivate individuals to change.
  • Yoga can provide necessary low-impact physical exercise, which can be beneficial in helping to restore health. Additionally, yoga poses often require that the individual focus on the “here and now” in order to hold the pose. Breathing techniques taught in yoga can also be tools used outside of a yoga practice to help cope with stress and triggers.
  • Mindfulness and meditation can help people achieve a relaxed and calm state, which is a useful tool when learning to cope with day-to-day stressors without the use of drugs or alcohol. Additionally, meditation can improve mental health by helping to focus the mind on the present.

How Effective Is Holistic Addiction Treatment?

Because holistic treatment attempts to treat addiction in such a way that it does not always produce tangible results, it is challenging to determine the efficacy of the various types of treatment. For example, according to a review originally published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the evidence for the effects of acupuncture on opiate addiction is currently inconclusive.

The best way for individuals to determine if a treatment approach is working for them is to pay attention to how they feel during and after its application. There is no set scientific way to measure improvements in the mind or spirit, but individuals may feel a noticeable change in mood or personality after undergoing holistic treatment, which can have a positive effect on their overall recovery.

Traditional Approaches to Addiction Treatment

man undergoing therapy in addiction treatment

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are several main types of traditional treatment modalities when it comes to addiction; however, individual programs continue to evolve as research indicates what kind of approaches are typically effective, so many modern programs no longer fit into a standard classification. In general though, traditional approaches to drug addiction begin with a medical detox stage.

During medical detox, clients have access to a team of trained healthcare professionals who will help them manage the worst of their withdrawal symptoms. Following medical detox, individuals will work with a team of addiction treatment specialists to develop a treatment plan that best meets their needs, based on the extent of their addiction and their recovery needs, as well as their budget, schedule, and geographic location.

Different Types of Traditional Addiction Treatment

Different addiction facilities offer different types of addiction treatment. Individuals with severe addictions might graduate from one program to the next. For example, it is not uncommon for individuals to opt for residential treatment following the medical detox stage but to enroll in an outpatient program later. Some of the most common treatment programs following detox are:

  • Residential/inpatient treatment is highly structured and provides a safe space for individuals to address the root of their addiction without having to face stressors of the outside world while they are still vulnerable after undergoing detox. In residential treatment, clients have care 24 hours a day in a non-hospital setting, and they become part of a therapeutic community. In this community, they will find the support and encouragement they need to help them develop personal accountability for their actions.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) may be good options for those with obligations at home, work, or school, and who may not be able to attend a residential treatment program. In PHPs clients still have a structured schedule with intensive therapy sessions, but they go home to their families every night.
  • Intensive outpatient programs are often highly structured non-residential programs that offers many of the programs, therapies, and treatment offerings that can be found in residential treatment, but on an outpatient basis.
  • Outpatient programs use many of the same tools that can be found in residential treatment or PHPs, but are more flexible as far as scheduling goes. They allow individuals to maintain their personal and professional commitments while still working on their recovery.
  • Aftercare programs are useful options for individuals once they have left treatment. Alumni programs can help people stay connected to their recovery communities and to help other individuals on their recovery journeys. Many aftercare programs involve the use of 12-step programs.

How Effective is Traditional Addiction Treatment?

The efficacy rates of the different treatment modalities vary, but it is important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness, and as with most diseases, relapse is common; however, it is always possible to reenter recovery.

According to some studies, intensive outpatient programs are as effective at treating addiction as residential treatment programs. 50-70 Percent of subjects who enrolled in outpatient programs reported continued abstinence when researchers followed up, as did the same percentage of subjects who enrolled in inpatient programs.

When it comes to specific treatment approaches and not just the general structure through which they are applied, researchers have found that various types of therapy have proven to be effective for some people. For example, according to an analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, Motivational Interviewing is 10-20 percent more effective at treating substance use disorders than no treatment at all. Researchers who conducted a study originally published in Psychiatric Clinics of North America found that 60 percent of participants who received cognitive behavioral therapy for cocaine dependence had clean toxicology reports at the one-year follow-up point.

Combining Holistic and Traditional Addiction Treatment Methods

Doctors and addiction experts do not recommend taking an entirely holistic approach to treating addiction because there is little tangible evidence of its efficacy; however, as a form of complementary medicine, it can help people feel more in control of their own treatment. A combination of traditional and holistic substance abuse treatment can often be a good solution for many people. The bottom line is that the more engaged and proactive people are in their treatment, the more effective their programs tend to be.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol and need help, there are effective treatment options available to get you on the road to recovery. Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about Sunrise House Treatment Center, how to start the admissions process, and to find out more information about using insurance to pay for rehab.

If you don’t have insurance or are underinsured, our navigators can guide you through other ways to cover the cost of treatment.

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