What Is Holistic Care?
Holistic treatment is an approach to care that accounts for the person as a whole. Many use the term interchangeably with “alternative medicine” because many forms of holistic care incorporate spiritual elements. However, holistic therapy does not have to be spiritual in nature. Aside from focusing on the basic mental and physical sides of recovery, holistic forms of treatment may also account for the social, emotional or environmental components of sober living. Working on the belief that our sobriety is connected to our overall well-being, most forms of holistic care will focus on more than one component of recovery at a time.
Forms of Holistic Therapy
One of the most common forms of holistic therapy is the practice of mindfulness meditation, which combines mental and physical elements with spiritual growth. Similarly, yoga incorporates these components with a stronger emphasis on the physical side, while music therapy and art therapy allow us to see how our thoughts and emotions are influenced by sensory stimuli. Other forms of holistic care, such as massage therapy and acupuncture, combine physical and sensory elements with mental ones while requiring much less active participation on the part of the client. These are only a few examples, but they are among the most commonly used in addiction treatment.
The above examples say little of social or environmental factors, as these tend to fall under a subset of holistic treatments known as experiential therapy. Forms of experiential therapy tend to include activities not commonly associated with therapeutic treatment, such as hiking or rock climbing. A more specific example would be equestrian therapy, which is performed while either riding or grooming horses. Not only do these forms of holistic therapy allow us to incorporate multiple facets of our being into one activity, but they also introduce us to tools that we can revisit after leaving treatment. A good relapse prevention plan should leave room for recreation, and knowing which types of experiential therapy we enjoy can enhance our ability to find activities that we will later enjoy doing while sober.
Benefits of Holistic Treatment
All forms of holistic care, including experiential therapy, allow us to see how various aspects of our identity interact with one another. When we meditate or do yoga exercises, we can feel the effects of our breath or our movements on our minds. During experiential therapy, we see how performing physical (and often social) activities in various environments can improve our emotional well-being. We can further come to appreciate that many of the benefits we receive from these activities would be greatly diminished if we were to attempt them while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. In this sense, one could say that a primary benefit of holistic treatment is simply a greater enjoyment for sober living and the peace of mind that accompanies it.