Traditional Rehab vs. a Holistic Approach to Recovery

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one of the most effective principles of treatment is to treat the entire person as a whole entity, rather than focusing only on the drug or alcohol addiction and the diseases symptoms. In terms of practical reasons, addiction experts list a number of examples of how to treat an entire person’s condition – addressing legal problems, vocational issues and any psychological or medical situations that may be present – when an individual receives treatment.

When an individual has been suffering from addiction, they experience changes in the brain and the body that can cause them to feel as though they simply cannot exist without the drugs to which they have become addicted. This compulsion to abuse drugs is part of the diagnostic criteria for addiction. The disease causes some individuals to seemingly choose to abuse drugs over actions that, to a reasonable person, would seem far less important.
For example:

  • Going to work
  • Taking care of their children
  • Participating in activities they have often enjoyed in the past
  • Going to school
  • Taking care of personal hygiene
  • Eating properly
  • Properly managing money and expenses

This can cause serious difficulties in the person’s everyday life. If they do not go to work consistently, they can lose their job. If they do not parent effectively, the authorities can remove their children from their home. If they fail to participate in events, such as book clubs or their favorite model train club, they may find that their friendships and other established relationships suffer. Each of these relationships should be addressed during traditional rehab so that when the individual is ready to re-enter their life without the influences of active drug abuse, they can launch their new life with a firm foundation.

Traditional Rehab Can Focus on Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Conditions

rehabIn addition to taking a close look at mending relationships when possible, traditional rehab also addresses the psychological needs of each recovering person. In some cases, the client may suffer from conditions that are related to their addiction but may have existed prior to the addiction. These conditions are known as co-occurring disorders. The expert researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated that it is not known whether psychological disorders cause addiction, but the presence of these conditions certainly increases the risks of drug abuse leading to a diagnosable addiction disorder. It should be noted that individuals with psychological disorders who never abuse drugs do not automatically suffer from addiction and not all individuals with these conditions will become addicted when or if they are exposed to drugs of abuse. However, if both conditions do exist at the same time, it is imperative to treat both conditions with equal care and attention to increase the chances of a successful recovery from addiction.

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Traditional rehab practices will include many options for the treatment of addiction in terms of evidence-based protocols. One such protocol used widely for the treatment of addiction issues is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. These types of therapies partner a person who needs rehab treatment with a trained counselor for a limited number of sessions. Unlike traditional talk therapy, which can continue for a period of years in some cases, this type of therapy is generally completed with a specific number of sessions, averaging about 16 weeks.While in treatment, the recovering individual will unlearn certain belief structures that have developed over time and which, in turn, have caused certain unhealthy behaviors. An individual suffering from an anxiety condition may turn to drugs to make them feel more relaxed in social situations, for example. They may have a belief system that states emphatically that everyone they meet judges them harshly. Drugs or alcohol eases their mind so they can socialize without paying attention to the nagging belief that they are not good enough. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help them unlearn two concepts: that people are judging them and that drugs or alcohol are the only way they can handle that judgment. If those thought patterns are replaced with new belief structures – people are not judging them and drugs or alcohol will only make the situation worse – they can exhibit new behaviors that are conducive to sobriety and health.

A Holistic Approach to Recovery Focuses Even More Attention on the Whole Person

Holistic Rehab ProgramsRecovering from drug addiction is far more than simply making the effort to not abuse drugs or alcohol. Living in recovery can often mean changing every aspect of your life, from your associations and unhealthy relationships to learning how to manage pain or stress without the abuse of medications or illegal substances. The holistic approach to recovery provides recovering individuals with a toolbox of skills they can call on to help them overcome the challenges they will face every day.

Therapeutic massage is one tool that can benefit individuals who suffer from chronic pain. Pain, on a varying scale, can be a part of the recovery process for some individuals, particularly those with opiate addictions, according to information provided by New York University Medical Center. If an individual was originally prescribed opiate pain relievers for a chronic pain condition and then developed an addiction to the same prescription medication, they might need to find an alternative method to control that pain.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has found that massage can benefit many types of pain as well as other body systems, including:

  • Low-back pain
  • Some forms of knee pain
  • Neck pain
  • Reduction of pain experienced by cancer patients
  • Improvements to mood

Holistic Approaches to Recovery Include Stress Management Techniques

One important aspect of recovery is the ability to manage the stress one experiences on a routine basis.

Stress has been found to have psychological links to instances of relapse, and a reduction in, or effective means of managing, stress is important to maintaining sobriety. Stress is more than finding it difficult to cope with circumstances. It is a physical and emotional reaction to those circumstances. In its most extreme form, stress can manifest in panic attacks that cause individuals to feel as though they are having a heart attack.

In moderate situations, stress causes us to engage in the “fight or flight” response mechanisms that keep us safe. For example, a person who experiences stress when someone tries to steal their bag on a city street is experiencing the normal reaction to healthy stress; they may have the urge to fight back to keep their belongings, or they have the sudden urge to run away. However, when someone is recovering from drug addiction, the simple activity of finding something to occupy their mind may cause stress from the fear that they may never be able to tackle their craving or compulsion to abuse drugs when they are bored. In addition to this type of stress, they may still be faced with the same stresses at work or home that other people who are not recovering must deal with every day. The difference is that a recovering drug addict is faced with the possibility of turning back to drug abuse to deal with the stress. An ability to cope can be often developed through holistic alternatives, such as yoga, tai chi or meditation.

You Are What You Eat, So Eat Healthy

eat healthyThe overall goal for drug addiction recovery is to become healthy. Certainly, an individual who partakes in evidence-based therapies can stop abusing drugs, but what happens after they leave treatment if they aren’t living healthy lives? According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals who feel better, inside and out, are less likely to return to abusing drugs. Many drugs of abuse have serious detrimental effects on the human body in terms of vitamin deficiency, lethargy and other illnesses. People who are lethargic don’t generally get enough exercise, so they may have issues with weight gain. Other drugs might make a person so energetic that they go days without eating, which depletes the body of nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Part of a holistic approach to recovery is to help individuals regain control over their diet – what they eat, when they eat it, and how much they consume. This can increase body weight for those who need it, decrease body weight for others, and replace nutrients that were lost in addiction. By creating a healthy body and body image through the consumption of healthy foods and exercise, the individual can put himself or herself into an atmosphere of total healing.

If you’d like to learn more about how traditional and holistic therapies can augment your journey to recovery, or if you’d like help staging an intervention for someone in your life who is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

Further Reading About Traditional Rehab vs. a Holistic Approach to Recovery

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