What Is Holistic Drug Rehab?

Last Updated on October 18, 2021

If you’re researching drug rehab options for a loved one or yourself, perhaps you’ve heard of holistic addiction treatment. Professionals use holistic treatment approaches to address a wide range of ailments, with addiction being one. But how is a holistic drug rehab program different from others? And what type of treatment can you expect to receive?

Related post: 10 Key Questions to Ask a Potential Drug Rehab Center

Let’s take a closer look at holistic drug rehab to learn more about what it is, why it’s effective, and how it differs from conventional addiction treatment.

What does holistic treatment mean?

When it comes to substance use disorders, the term “holistic treatment” refers to an approach that considers a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. This type of treatment aims to help individuals overcome their addiction(s) with a whole-person approach that focuses on healing the body and the mind.

As research has demonstrated, one factor is never the single cause of addiction. Instead, there are many contributing factors to the development of a substance use disorder. It makes sense that employing treatment with a whole-body approach would help people manage their addiction by also addressing contributing issues like emotional stress and lack of exercise.

Rather than just treating one set of symptoms, a growing body of research suggests that holistic addiction treatment can help individuals develop a stronger sense of self-identity, self-esteem, and self-confidence, which can aid in long-lasting sobriety.1 However, it’s important to note that experts don’t recommend replacing traditional evidence-based treatment methods with holistic ones. Instead, they work best in tandem.

What types of therapies do addiction treatment professionals use in a holistic drug rehab program?

Rehab programs that incorporate holistic techniques still offer traditional, evidence-based treatment like group therapy and individual therapy. However, they provide a comprehensive treatment regimen that also includes holistic methods (sometimes called alternative or complementary methods), including the following:2

Yoga and meditation 

Yoga is a mind-body practice that pairs breathing with different stretching exercises and poses to reduce stress. It also relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression and increases levels of GABA in the brain (a feel-good chemical).3 

In addition, meditation teaches mindfulness by requiring people to tune in to the present moment and observe their thoughts and feelings without judgment or action. Not only does meditation improve brain health after addiction, but researchers have also found that practicing mindfulness can help people in recovery better control their impulses. As a result, they may be less likely to relapse.

These benefits are substantial for people with substance use disorders, especially because many people turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders. As a result, regular yoga and meditation practice may help reduce relapse among people in recovery by providing an outlet for stress management.

Exercise and recreation

Some drug rehab programs provide exercise programs or recreation therapy like animal-assisted therapy and equine therapy. These holistic methods help people get out of their heads and connect with their feelings and bodies. Regular exercise can provide many physical benefits and help the body regain strength after months or years of substance abuse. In addition, guided interactions with animals can provide insight into deeply hidden emotions that people need to acknowledge and address to recover from an addiction fully.4 

Massage and acupuncture

Massage therapy has been shown to reduce stress and pain, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and improve immune function. It may also be helpful for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and digestive problems.5 These benefits are often beneficial for people going through detox because massage may help relieve some uncomfortable drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, addiction treatment professionals may implement massage therapy into a holistic drug rehab program too.

Art therapy

Art therapy has many benefits for people who are recovering from addiction. For example, it helps people take the initiative and get involved in their treatment, especially those who may be resistant to going to rehab. It also provides a healthy outlet for individuals to express themselves and their feelings. In addition, art therapy done in a group setting can facilitate positive discussion and relational connections during rehab.6 

In drug rehab, art therapy can take on many different forms, including:

  • Origami
  • Mandalas
  • Collaging
  • Art journaling
  • Scribble drawing
  • Mindful doodling

There are many other types of holistic treatment methods used in drug rehab, including:

  • Nutritional therapies
  • Aromatherapy
  • Guided imagery
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Neurofeedback

What are the benefits of a holistic approach to addiction recovery?

A holistic approach to addiction recovery is beneficial to many people because it addresses how addiction has impacted a person instead of just addressing a single set of symptoms. It’s designed to treat the whole person for optimal physical, mental, and spiritual health. Ultimately, this will give individuals the best chance at sustaining long-lasting recovery from addiction.

How effective is holistic drug rehab?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a large body of research on the effectiveness of holistic addiction treatment methods. And the research that does exist is largely inconclusive. However, it’s safe to say that holistic drug rehab can be highly effective when professionals pair the holistic treatment methods with conventional treatment methods, like individual therapy, group therapy, and 12-Step facilitation therapy. Not surprisingly, these “alternative” treatment methods may make people feel more comfortable in rehab and may attract individuals who would otherwise not be interested in a conventional rehab program.

Is holistic drug rehab right for you?

Deciding whether holistic drug rehab is right for you is a choice only you can make. The main difference between a holistic rehab program and a conventional rehab program is the holistic program includes a variety of alternative treatment methods that complement traditional methods, like individual or group therapy. 

Depending on your needs and preferences, holistic drug rehab may help you treat the underlying causes of your substance use disorder by addressing it from different perspectives. It may also be an incentive to go to treatment for your addiction, especially if you’re resistant to the idea.

Related post: 6 Things You Should Know Before Going to Inpatient Drug Rehab

Get help for addiction at Nova Recovery Center

At Nova Recovery Center, we provide an individualized approach to rehab and offer several types of holistic treatment methods in conjunction with conventional, evidence-based approaches. Our addiction treatment experts use a combination of therapeutic methods to find out what works best for you and your recovery.

If you’re ready to get help for addiction, contact our friendly admissions team today by calling (888) 427-4932.


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12924747/ 
  2. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2018-10-11/why-you-should-consider-holistic-addiction-treatment 
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193654/ 
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175303709X434167
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4268880/

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