An estimated 1 in 12 American adults have a substance abuse disorder. The most effective alcohol and substance abuse recovery programs generally customize their services to match the unique and specific needs of each client. More and more programs are focusing on a “whole person,” or holistic approach. The holistic approach includes a variety of services that supplement, not replace traditional recovery services like talk therapy and 12 Step programs.
Holistic therapies and services include but are not limited to yoga, meditation, equine-assisted activities and therapy, art therapy, acupuncture and aquatic therapy. These services and therapies help a person achieve, maintain, and enhance recovery. Other complimentary type activities such as a walking or jogging program, hiking, tennis, kayaking, fishing and other recreational activities may be beneficial for some clients.
Blue Willow works with clients to customize the services in their recovery process. Dr. Lalonde has a mutual working relationship with the top experts in these holistic fields throughout Houston and the surrounding communities and will discuss possible referral clients to these services as appropriate. If you have never tried yoga or meditation before and you are not sure if you would like it or not, we encourage clients to be open to trying new things. You may find that new inclusions to your recovery plan are more beneficial than you ever thought possible.
Meditation is a mind body practice where an individual uses techniques including mindfulness or focusing on a particular thought or activity, to train attention and awareness. Meditation is thousands of years old and the practice has religious ties in ancient Egypt and China, as well as Judaism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Developing a meditation practice can help one achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.
Meditation is an opportunity to put your mind at rest and look inward rather than concentrating on the external world. Mindfulness and staying in the moment are important. Meditation can also help reduce stress, which can have a direct impact on managing compulsive thoughts, cravings and triggers.
Meditation can help individuals become more mindful. Rather than reacting to situations with fear or emotion, meditation teaches you to stay in the moment with a calm, observant mind. This can help individuals refocus their thoughts, ward off harmful cravings, and resist the impulse to relapse. The stresses that trigger alcohol and drug relapse are everywhere, but once a comfortable meditation routine has been established, it can be done by anyone anywhere on an as-needed basis, making it an extremely valuable addition to a recovery program.
Increasingly used in substance abuse treatment programs and throughout recovery, yoga is an Eastern discipline that focuses on the mind-body connection. In the United States, the most common form of yoga practiced is asana, in which a sequence of physical postures are performed to strengthen and release blockages so that energy can flow throughout the body.
Yoga for addiction recovery helps clients rebuild their physical health in a safe, gentle manner, and can be beneficial for overcoming relapse triggers, reducing anxiety, or dealing with symptoms of a co-occurring disorder. Yoga is sometimes described as a "moving meditation," and combines the mindfulness of meditation with more physically rigorous activity. Clients who incorporate yoga into their recovery can expect the mental benefits of meditation as well as improved strength and stamina.
More and more recovery services offer animal-assisted therapies to help treat alcohol and drug addiction. In recent years, equine-assisted therapy has grown in popularity and it is one of the most popular, well-researched and effective types of holistic recovery and mental health services.
Horses are intelligent animals and any kind of relationship with them requires trust. Equine-assisted therapy builds trust between the horse and client primarily through caretaking activities like feeding, grooming, brushing, bathing, and exercising these beautiful animals.
Equine therapy encourages clients to enter and maintain recovery by creating strong therapeutic alliances. Many individuals seeking alcohol and substance abuse treatment have difficulty building trust and understanding who they are. This can cause serious issues in interpersonal relationships. Horses are non-judgmental animals with no expectations or motives. They have no preconceived expectations or prejudices and are a perfect companion for beginning the process of understanding healthy relationships.
Furthermore, equine therapy can improve a client’s mood and confidence. It can encourage individuals to tend to develop better communication and social skills that a client will need to employ in their everyday life. Building those skills aid the healing process during addiction recovery and supports ongoing sobriety afterward.
Creative expression is a fundamental part of the human experience with great therapeutic potential. Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps the client use art and media to explore feelings and develop skills. The kinds of art most commonly used in art therapy include painting, sculpting, dancing, drawing, acting, music and poetry. You don’t need to have artistic training or inherent talent to participate in and receive benefits from art therapy - it’s all about the process of creating art. This type of therapy is non-verbal and non-confrontational, so it can be a good fit for clients who find it difficult to open up during talk therapy sessions.
Overcoming the disease of addiction requires an understanding of the origins of substance abuse, the motivating factors for recovery, and the reasons for resistance to healing. Many individuals who enter recovery programs are living with the residual effects of traumatic experiences. Art therapy has been used successfully as a healing intervention for trauma by providing an opportunity to explore, understand, and resolve issues in a person’s life that he or she may not feel comfortable talking about. The artwork serves as a container for emotions and allows clients to vent feelings in a safe way.
Many clients feel the art experiences provide an emotional release and promote relaxation. Creative activity gives the individual in recovery a sense of control that may be lacking in life. In this sense, art can become a coping strategy for dealing with the challenges of recovery.
For many people with alcohol or substance use disorders, addictive behavior is driven by an overwhelming desire to alleviate emotional suffering. Through art therapy, one can give voice to painful feelings, thoughts, and memories in a healthy and healing way that can be profoundly relieving. Art makes us feel good and creating art expands the ways a person can convey ideas and emotions. Being able to experience non-destructive pleasure and to process difficult emotions in a nurturing, self-healing way is vital to recovery.
Acupuncture therapy is derived from traditional Chinese medicine and has been used to heal ailments and promote wellness for more than 2,000 years. It is based on a theory that disease is caused by disruptions to the flow of energy in the body. By stimulating points under the skin using fine needles, acupuncture is believed to unblock the flow of energy and bring the energy flow back into balance. Some Western scientists believe that acupuncture helps the brain release natural endorphins and promotes dopamine production. The release of these chemicals in the brain helps to manage the physical and emotional pain of alcohol and opioid addiction and helps with the withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
An increasing number of studies show acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating drug addiction and aiding the detoxification process. Acupuncture can help patients find relief from their cravings and be more successful in sustaining a life of sobriety after substance abuse and addiction.
Acupuncture is most widely used and supported as an effective and evidence-supported form of pain relief, which can remove reliance on opioids and pain medication. Acupuncture treatments subdue patient cravings for drugs while also creating feelings of calm and relief from withdrawal symptoms. It is not entirely understood how acupuncture is effective in treating drug addiction, but research results show evidence that acupuncture raises the level of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, in the nervous system. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated by raising endorphin levels.
Aquatic therapy is physical therapy performed in water. It can be swimming laps in a pool or connecting with nature by wading in a lake or the ocean.Many studies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown the benefits that come from swimming and other aquatic therapies and it is one of the many tools that therapists can use to assist in the healing process of musculoskeletal issues and conditions for patients of all ages, abilities, and diagnoses. The aquatic environment allows injured muscles to use muscle memory without impact or bearing weight. Aquatic therapy is ideal for individuals with painful joints or weak muscles. It may also be effective for those who suffer from back pain, those recovering from surgery or injury, arthritis and pre- or post-natal women with muscle or joint pain associated with pregnancy.
According to the CDC, water-based exercise helps fight chronic diseases, keeps you in shape, alters your mood, and offers a wide range of other benefits. Studies show that regular exercise can help with many different problems, physical and mental, including addiction. Aquatic Therapy promotes relaxation and reduces stress through physical activity. Activities like swimming laps or aerobics are gentle ways to improve physical fitness. Being immersed in water is calming and reduces stress, so aquatic therapy fosters whether you float or just sit and think. In a quiet aquatic environment, you can work on mindfulness and focus only on the present moment.
Aquatic therapy activities such as swimming help those recovering from addiction create goals and stick with them. Swimming incorporates intentional breathing and discipline, which are both important to developing good coping skills for sustaining recovery.