Alternative Treatments and the Changing Face of Drug Rehab
Alternative therapies for addiction have become so popular they can’t really be considered “alternative” anymore. The mainstreaming of diverse recovery strategies has been one of the more notable achievements in addiction treatment in recent years, and this ongoing trend shows no signs of slowing any time soon.
The Most Popular Mind-Body Treatments for Addiction
Holistic or mind-body healing practices are other names for these types of therapies. As those labels suggest, the goal of these treatment methods is to restore physical health and emotional equilibrium in their entirety. Through this approach, men and women with substance use issues learn how to battle drugs and alcohol from a position of strength rather than weakness.
Some of the alternative healing techniques currently being used to treat addiction include:
- Meditation/Mindfulness Training
- Tai Chi or Other Martial Arts
- Animal Therapy (Equine Therapy, Pet Therapy, etc.)
- Art Therapy
- Music Therapy
- Biochemical Restoration (Nutritional) Therapy
- Aquatic Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Wilderness Therapy
All of these healing practices are available independently of addiction treatment, and many recovering addicts choose to add them to their aftercare programs. But they are also being included more and more in recovery regimens at residential rehab centers across the country, and this development is making a significant impact on the addiction treatment industry as a whole.
Addiction specialists believe that such therapies should be used as supplements to more traditional approaches to recovery (medical detox, individual/group/family therapy, medication, etc.) and not as a substitute. These healing methods have value because they add range, diversity and expanded possibility to the field of addiction treatment, where the search for better strategies in the fight against substance abuse is never-ending.
The Skeptics Respond
There are some observers who remain skeptical about the usefulness of alternative healing techniques. They point out that most of the evidence in their favor is anecdotal and that controlled studies into their effectiveness is lacking.
While it is true that scientific studies into such methods are limited, that is more of a commentary on the state of medical research than a knock against alternative therapies. Thankfully this history of neglect is now being addressed, and so far most of the studies that have been done have verified the effectiveness of alternative treatment methods.
And it is, of course, a mistake to dismiss anecdotal evidence entirely, since this real-world feedback helps addiction specialists design more comprehensive and effective individual recovery plans.
Why Do Alternative/Holistic Treatment Methods for Addiction Work?
Unlike psychotherapy and medication, alternative methods of addiction treatment don’t attack substance abuse directly. Instead, they encourage participants to gradually reinvent themselves and alter their worldviews, through lifestyle changes and attitude adjustments that can help them relate to the world — and stressful situations — in a far more positive way.
Research suggests alternative healing practices are useful in addiction treatment for several reasons. Among their many advantages, these activities can:
- Keep patients more interested and engaged in treatment by letting them actively participate in their own healing process. This reduces the likelihood that patients will become discouraged, give up and leave treatment facilities early.
- Teach participants how to restore their emotional and psychological equilibrium, leaving them less vulnerable to situations that might trigger relapse.
- Give addiction specialists more options to work with, making it easier to customize individual treatment plans for each patient.
- Help restore physical vitality and boost energy levels, leaving patients feeling full of life and hopeful about the future.
- Regenerate self-esteem and self-confidence by showing recovering addicts a better way of responding to life’s challenges.
- Tap into the mystique that is associated with holistic, mind-body healing practices. People believe implicitly in the power of yoga, acupuncture, meditation, martial arts and equine therapy, and that is part of the reason they work so well.
Traditional rehab services for addiction can help those with substance use problems get out from under the havoc and chaos caused by drugs and alcohol. Traditional methods will assist recovering addicts in their ongoing attempt to develop better life and coping skills, in order to resist temptation and avoid triggers that can send them spiraling back into chemical dependency.
But recovering addicts still need something more. They need constructive, positive thoughts, actions and experiences to fill the mental and physical spaces formerly occupied by drugs and alcohol, and that is where activities like yoga, art therapy, martial arts and acupuncture can make a huge impact.
Other forms of alternative therapy, such as neurofeedback, biochemical restoration and meditation, can empower practitioners by helping them develop greater resiliency along with a calmer state of mind. They provide recovering addicts with powerful psychological tools that can boost their efforts to abandon their previous (dysfunctional) methods for coping.
Alternative Therapies for Addiction Are Here to Stay
Alternative therapies for addiction are slowly but surely bringing about an evolution in the way rehab facilities operate, and in the way they conceive of health and wellness. The goal of such therapies is to enhance the effectiveness of traditional treatment methods and strategies, while offering opportunities for patients with substance use issues to imagine a new and more exciting future.
As research into holistic, mind-body healing methods continues, and knowledge of their validity spreads, treatment facilities will undoubtedly look for more ways to incorporate these evidence-based therapies into their healing curriculums.
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