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Holistic and Alternative Addiction Therapies

Written by Renee Deveney

& Medically Reviewed by Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS

Medically Reviewed

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This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 12/29/22

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Many types of holistic and alternative therapies, such as massage therapy or art therapy, are being used more frequently in conjunction with conventional rehab methods.

The term “holistic” can be defined as whole-person care. Today, the term is increasingly used in conjunction with addiction treatment and mainstream medicine. Holistic approaches focus on the mind and body and seek to meet physical, spiritual and psychological needs. Alternative drug treatment programs use holistic methods to enhance and complement traditional recovery methods.

Holistic addiction treatment aims to treat substance use disorders in addition to addressing factors that led to addiction in the first place. Alternative addiction therapy approaches can help with withdrawal symptoms, stress and unhealthy eating habits.

What Is Holistic Therapy?

Holistic therapy pertains to treating a person’s health conditions while also targeting their mind, body and spiritual states. Holistic therapy frequently attempts to promote a person’s health by using natural remedies to restore balance in physical, spiritual and emotional states.

Complementary and alternative medicine, also known as CAM, refers to treatment modalities. However, complementary medicine is treatment conducted alongside traditional medical techniques, while alternative medicine refers to treatment that replaces traditional medical interventions.

When considering complementary vs alternative medicine, clinical recommendations are for holistic therapies to be used complementary to traditional rehab methods instead of replacing them. Holistic therapy can supplement traditional treatment methods, such as medication and behavioral therapy.

Holistic recovery from addiction seeks to help promote healthier lifestyles. Many treatment facilities provide a variety of supplemental therapies. Holistic pain management can be incorporated into treatment while teaching individuals healthy methods to cope with physical distress during drug and alcohol recovery. Clients are provided with relief as they acquire healthy coping skills for the future.

How Is Holistic Treatment Applied to Addiction Therapy?

When holistic treatment is applied to addiction therapy, interventions center on the complete person rather than specific behaviors. Holistic therapy helps people confront factors that led to the development of their addiction and provides skills and tools to sustain long-term recovery.

Holistic drug rehab promotes nutrition, meditation, and exercise to assist individuals in overcoming their addiction. Holistic remedies for stress promote tranquility in the mind and body and help people in recovery experience stress relief. Holistic treatment for alcohol withdrawal may include acupuncture treatments combined with traditional medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Types of Holistic Therapy

Holistic treatment for drug addiction incorporates an integrated model of treatment, care for the whole person and enhances overall well-being instead of working on a certain symptom or behavior. Holistic therapy products can also be used, such as herbal medicine or essential oils.

Types of holistic therapy interventions can include:

Nutrition Therapy

Nutritional therapy for alcoholism can assist in the healing process, as people are taught how to supply their body with energy in order to keep their organs healthy and defend against infection. Medical nutrition therapy helps individuals to consume healthy meals and snacks, limit caffeine intake and take vitamins, minerals, and other natural alcohol detox supplements if recommended. When a person eats healthy foods, they can experience enhanced energy, which can help against drug cravings in recovery.

Natural Products

Herbal medicine can inhibit the metabolism of alcohol, curb cravings and assist with alleviating withdrawal symptoms. Essential oils are reported by some people to help foster physical balance and emotional tranquility, which combats negativity or bad memories. Homeopathy helps the body manage stress and illness more efficiently and can help a person in the withdrawal period.

Mind & Body Practices

Yoga for addiction recovery can help an individual strengthen and enhance their mind-body connection. Chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation can be helpful to correct misalignments in the nerves and spine, which helps the release of neurotransmitters and assists people in feeling calm and relaxed. Guided meditation for addiction can also help a person quiet their mind and establish a connection with themselves without using drugs.

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Massage & Acupuncture

Acupuncture seeks to reinstate balance in the body. Acupuncture for withdrawal of drugs is called Acudetox, or acupuncture detoxification, and can minimize aches, pains and withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture for drug detox can help decrease cravings, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance sleep. Holistic massage therapy can help elevate endorphins in the blood and minimize the effects of fluctuations in hormone levels.

Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques and meditation can be a positive coping skill and a healthy way to relieve stress. Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery are several relaxation interventions that can be used.


Hypnotherapy for addiction seeks to change a person’s way of thinking so that they no longer desire drugs or alcohol. A hypnotherapist will use hypnotherapy to create a mental state where a person is open to suggestions. During this hypnotized state, a person will be instructed to change their way of thinking.

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy helps people to reduce stress, has mental health benefits and can improve therapeutic rapport with a mental health practitioner. Equine therapy is a type of animal-assisted therapy. Drug rehab centers with equine therapy help people to shift their focus, get in touch with feelings and reconnect emotionally. Reconnecting with themselves through animal therapy helps a person to change formerly unhealthy habits that led to their addiction. Equine therapy helps people take responsibility, form a consistent schedule and establish growth.

Art Therapy

Art therapy for people recovering from addiction can help a person express themselves through non-verbal means. Art therapy and addiction can be combined to help people reduce denial and opposition to treatment, provide a channel for communication and decrease feelings of shame. Art therapy can help people explore themselves spiritually and enhance creative expression.

Effectiveness of Holistic Therapies in Addiction Treatment

Only a minimal amount of research has been conducted on the effectiveness of holistic therapies and how holistic therapy works. Research that has been conducted has been largely inconclusive. For many people, however, holistic addiction recovery can be a beneficial and helpful complement to traditional addiction treatment modalities. Alternative treatment modalities, such as holistic massage therapy, offer significant benefits in stress release and in developing a positive, healthy lifestyle.

Finding Holistic Treatment Centers

Holistic addiction treatment rehabilitation services educate individuals to use their mind, body, and spirit to maintain long-term recovery. A holistic drug rehab focuses on healing these areas in order to help end drug and alcohol use. Attending a holistic drug rehab program in Florida can help you or a loved one focus on the mind and body connection as the individual is treated as a whole, instead of a list of symptoms. Holistic treatment should be used to supplement traditional addiction treatment for maximum levels of effectiveness.

The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health provides evidence-based treatment for people in South Florida and beyond. Call today to learn more about both traditional and holistic treatment methods at The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health.

View Sources

MedlinePlus. “Complementary and Integrative Medicine.” September 10, 2019.  Accessed September 18, 2019.

MedlinePlus. “Substance Use Recovery and Diet.”  September 11, 2019.  Accessed September 18, 2019.

Aletraris, Lydia; et al. “The Use of Art and Music Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs.” Journal of Addictions Nursing, October 25, 2014.  Accessed September 18, 2019.