Holistic therapies are gaining in popularity as tools for treating substance use in tandem with conventional treatments. Holistic interventions are sometimes referred to as integrative forms of treatment and are intended to treat the whole person: emotionally, spiritually, physically and psychologically.
Such therapies may lack the empirical evidence of more traditional treatments, often due to a lack of research. Nonetheless, many individuals find value in adding holistic therapies as a means of promoting optimal well-being.
Many people have tried hypnosis in order to heighten psychological insight. Hypnotherapy involves the introduction of a relaxed state of consciousness which is characterized by a focused state of concentration and attention. This is thought to induce a state in which our critical faculties are decreased, thereby removing barriers to suggestibility.
Not everyone is able to achieve the deep relaxation needed to enter a hypnotic trance. For those who do, therapeutic suggestions are given which are meant to relieve unwanted symptoms and encourage behavioral change.
Over 10,000 articles have been published on hypnosis, beginning in the second half of the last century. The data shows mixed results for the efficacy of hypnosis. Nonetheless, it has been used successfully to address chronic pain, phobias, and addictions.
Acupuncture also has a history of use for chronic and acute pain. It is a type of ancient Chinese medicine that uses extremely thin needles to stimulate specific points on the body. Practitioners view this as a means of activating one’s internal healing system with the goal of restoring its correct function.
Researchers have found mixed results overall when studying the effects of acupuncture, although many cite a lack of consistency across studies.
Many clients use acupuncture to mitigate the pain of tension and migraine headaches, as well as neck and lower back pain.
Reflexology is similar to acupuncture in that it involves isolating and addressing specific body points with the goal of increasing overall health. Practitioners of this holistic intervention focus on the feet and hands and apply pressure in specific areas thought to correspond to other parts of the body. Instead of needles, pressure is applied with the hands, using the thumb and fingers.
The body of research on reflexology is small, but thus far suggests it may have limited effectiveness for some individuals.
The practitioner places their hands lightly on the body, or sometimes hovering just above the body, with the intention of stimulating the natural, internal healing response.
Reiki is based on the Eastern belief that the body contains energy that maintains the body’s natural healing process and can be influenced by manual manipulation.
There has been very little empirical research conducted on Reiki and so the results concerning its effectiveness are considered to be inconclusive.
Massage therapy is another holistic intervention that emphasizes body manipulation for the relief of emotional and physical issues. There are a variety of distinct methods and techniques used in massage therapy, but the common element involves the use of the hands, fingers, elbows, feet or forearms to rub and/or press muscle and soft tissue.
Current research indicates that massage therapy may be helpful for those suffering from back pain and can possibly enhance the quality of life for those living with anxiety, depression, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
In addition to the holistic treatments mentioned above, many individuals find it rewarding to practice a form of creative therapy along with more traditional forms of psychotherapy. The research on art, music, drama and dance therapies is limited, but all provide a creative outlet that can be therapeutic as well as fun.
Creating art can be a cathartic way of expressing emotion and it’s also used as a diagnostic aid, especially with children. Art therapists encourage one’s self-expression by way of drawing, painting, clay, and beadwork, etc.
Like art therapy, drama therapy is a type of expressive intervention that allows for emotional catharsis. It is used to promote mental health and initiate change by way of established and novel theater techniques. Practitioners of drama therapy view this holistic treatment as beneficial to personal storytelling, self-disclosure, problem-solving, and expression of mood and feelings.
Music therapists incorporate the listening and creating of music as well as movement and singing to music, as a tool to augment more traditional therapy. It can be used to address social, physical, emotional, and cognitive needs and some research suggests it may improve the behavioral and social skills of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
Sometimes it is also described as movement therapy because it makes use of movement to enhance emotional and physical health and to encourage socialization. As a form of exercise, dance therapy has been demonstrated to enhance physical fitness, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Animals are terrific stress-busters! The sight of a wagging tail or hearing the sound of a soft meow seems to melt away the day’s troubles for many people. To this end, animal-assisted therapy is a trend that is growing in popularity.
Both canine and equine therapies are holistic interventions you’re likely to encounter as adjuncts to traditional therapies.
Equine therapy is also referred to as horse therapy and involves engagement and interaction between horses and people.
Recent research shows that equine-assisted therapy may be helpful in decreasing symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. For example, one study demonstrated that equine therapy increased both the time a subject participated in addiction treatment and overall completion rates of treatment.
Canine therapy is a type of holistic treatment which involves interaction and engagement between people and man’s best friend. A typical canine therapy session may involve a handler who answers questions about the dogs involved and oversees the petting of the animals.
Studies suggest that petting animals can increase endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good chemical, as well as lower blood pressure.
If one or more of these therapies sounds intriguing, be sure to have a conversation with your counselor or therapist about holistic treatments and what you’ve learned!
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