The Effectiveness of a Holistic Approach in Addiction Treatment

Steve Trevino
August 29, 2023

The impacts of addiction extend beyond physical dependency. It infiltrates the mind and spirit as well. The holistic approach seeks to address the interplay between these three components – mind, body, and spirit - to facilitate comprehensive healing and recovery.

Here's a quick look at the underlying premise of holistic therapy:


The mind is at the forefront of addiction's battles. It's where cravings take root, triggers are recognized, and self-destructive thought patterns emerge. Holistic treatment acknowledges the importance of mental well-being by incorporating practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy. These techniques help individuals gain control over their thoughts, manage stress, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


Addiction also affects the body, affecting its systems and organs. Holistic treatment strongly emphasizes restoring physical health through nutrition, exercise, and specialized therapies. Nurturing the body fosters resilience and lays the foundation for lasting recovery.


The spiritual aspect of addiction encompasses an individual's sense of purpose, connection, and inner peace. Holistic treatment recognizes that addiction can erode one's spirit, leaving a void that substances attempt to fill. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and art therapy are integrated to support individuals in finding meaning beyond addiction and rebuilding a sense of purpose.

Holistic Treatment Modalities

Young woman in a therapy session exploring holistic treatment options for substance abuse and rehabilitation

Holistic treatment focuses on the whole person rather than the symptoms in isolation. As mentioned earlier, it addresses a person's physical, social, and psychological needs. In addition to 12-Step approaches, many addiction rehab programs provide holistic approaches that may include:

Meditation and Recovery

Meditation is a simple yet powerful technique with many benefits. It involves focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity to achieve a state of mental clarity and relaxation. There are various forms of meditation, including mindfulness, loving-kindness, and guided meditation. All these forms of meditation aim to synchronize the mind and body for better mental well-being and quality of life. Meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety, regulate emotions, manage cravings, and improve self-esteem, which is beneficial in recovery.


Mindfulness is a specific type of meditation that involves being fully present in the moment observing thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment. Mindfulness is an integral aspect of holistic treatment for addiction recovery due to its profound effects on various levels. Clinical trials of mindfulness in recovery have connected the approach to relapse prevention, reduced impulsivity, reduced cravings, and decreased stress and substance use.  


Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to promote physical and mental well-being. It can help improve flexibility, strength, and balance while reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Yoga can be particularly beneficial for those in recovery as it reduces the physical discomfort associated with withdrawal and fosters a sense of inner peace. Studies also show that yoga reduces substance use and substance-related cravings.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It is believed to balance the body's energy flow and promote healing. In addiction treatment, acupuncture may help reduce withdrawal symptoms, anxiety, and cravings and improve overall mood.

Behavioral and neurochemical evidence shows that acupuncture helps reduce the effects of negative and positive reinforcement in opiate addiction by modulating mesolimbic dopamine neurons. Acupuncture also promotes a sense of calm and well-being, which is essential during withdrawal.


Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in addiction recovery. Balanced diets rich in essential nutrients can help repair the damage caused by substance abuse and support overall physical and mental health. Nutritional therapy can also help stabilize blood sugar levels, improve mood, and boost energy, reducing the risk of relapse.


Regular physical activity releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. Engaging in exercise can alleviate stress, improve self-esteem, and enhance overall mental health. It also helps individuals rebuild their bodies after the toll of substance abuse and provides a positive outlet for energy and emotions. A review of 43 studies with over 3000 participants found that regular exercise was linked to reduced use in about 75% of the studies on the impact of exercise on substance use.

Art Therapy

Art therapy involves using creative processes such as painting, drawing, sculpture, or music to express and process emotions. It provides non-verbal communication and can be especially helpful for individuals with difficulty expressing their feelings verbally. Artistic activities can promote self-discovery, emotional healing, and stress reduction.

Benefits of Holistic Modalities in Addiction Treatment

Multiracial group celebrating progress in holistic treatment for substance abuse and rehabilitation during a therapy session

Comprehensive Healing

  • Holistic modalities recognize that addiction affects the whole person—body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Treating all these aspects leads to more comprehensive healing.
  • Rather than simply managing addiction symptoms, holistic approaches aim to uncover and address the root causes of addiction, promoting long-term recovery.

Whole-Person Approach

  • Holistic care looks at an individual's lifestyle choices, habits, and routines that might contribute to addiction or hinder recovery.
  • Holistic modalities encourage individuals to explore their emotions, thought patterns, and beliefs, aiding in understanding and transforming negative patterns.


  • Holistic approaches empower individuals to actively engage in their recovery journey, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • By teaching coping skills like mindfulness, meditation, and healthy habits, holistic modalities provide practical tools individuals can use to manage their well-being.

Long-Term Recovery

  • Holistic therapies equip individuals with effective coping strategies to deal with stressors and triggers, reducing the risk of relapse.
  • Through emotional regulation techniques, individuals can better navigate challenging emotions that might otherwise lead to substance use.

Reduces Reliance on Substances

  • Holistic modalities offer healthier alternatives for managing pain, stress, and anxiety, decreasing reliance on substances for relief.
  • Acupuncture, yoga, and exercise can alleviate physical discomfort without resorting to pharmaceutical painkillers.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

  • Holistic practices like meditation and yoga activate the body's relaxation response, reducing stress hormones and promoting a sense of calm.
  • Mindfulness techniques help individuals detach from anxious thoughts and stay present, diminishing anxiety's grip.

Emotional Healing

  • Art therapy and counseling provide safe outlets for expressing repressed emotions and processing traumatic experiences.
  • Holistic modalities encourage individuals to address emotional wounds and work towards healing on a deeper level.

Improved Physical Health

  • Regular physical activity boosts mood, aids detoxification, and contributes to overall physical health and well-being.
  • Nutritious foods support physical recovery, help repair damage from substance abuse, and provide essential nutrients for mental health.

Enhanced Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

  • Practices like mindfulness meditation enhance awareness of thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, leading to better self-understanding.
  • Mindfulness helps individuals recognize triggers and cravings as they arise, empowering them to respond mindfully rather than react impulsively.

Increased Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion

  • Holistic therapies promote self-compassion, reducing self-criticism and building healthier self-esteem.
  • Practices like mindfulness and yoga in rehab encourage individuals to view themselves in a more positive and accepting light.

Spiritual Growth and Meaning-Making

  • Exploring spirituality helps individuals connect with their values and find purpose beyond addiction.
  • Holistic modalities encourage a deeper exploration of one's identity and personal growth, fostering a sense of transformation.

Community and Connection

  • Group classes, therapy sessions, and support groups offer a sense of belonging and understanding from peers facing similar challenges.
  • Connecting with others in recovery can reduce feelings of isolation and offer a network of support.

Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

  • Integrating healthy practices into daily routines creates a foundation for ongoing well-being and resilience.
  • By adopting a healthier lifestyle, individuals create an environment less conducive to relapse.

Integrative Approach

  • Holistic modalities complement evidence-based therapies, providing a well-rounded approach that addresses the diverse needs of individuals.
  • An integrative approach allows for tailored treatment plans that account for an individual's unique preferences and challenges.

At More Than Rehab, we understand that addiction is a complex issue with deep-rooted causes. Our holistic approach allows us to delve into the underlying factors that contribute to addictive behaviors, helping individuals to heal from the inside out. We offer a range of evidence-based therapies alongside holistic treatment modalities. This integrated approach ensures that each person receives a personalized treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and circumstances for a successful sober life.


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About The Author: 
Steve Trevino
Steve Trevino is married to Julie, his high school sweetheart and they have two daughters. He is the founder and executive director of CrossCentral Church and Recovery Center. With experience in both non-profit and for-profit treatment, he has helped thousands find freedom from addiction through residential programs, recovery workshops and consulting around the world.

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