9 Reasons Why Holistic Addiction Treatment Should Be the New Normal

Addiction / Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC / Mental Health

9 Reasons Why Holistic Addiction Treatment Should Be the New Normal

The key to the holistic addiction recovery model is that it’s focused on treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of addiction.

As a licensed addiction counselor, I’m well versed in many different approaches to treating addiction and achieving success with long term recovery. While addiction recovery is never easy, I routinely get feedback from my patients that it is easier and more achievable with than what they were expecting — all because of our holistic approach.

The key to our holistic addiction recovery model is that it’s focused on treating the whole person, not just the symptoms of addiction. Traditional methods are often more focused on stopping substance use, and don’t address all the underlying aspects of addiction or all the components of health and well-being.

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT - Denver Psychotherapist and Licensed Addiction Counselor

Holistic addiction treatment considers all aspects of a person’s well-being, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. This comprehensive care can lead to a deeper, more sustained recovery.

Thankfully more and more addiction facilities and counselors are seeing the benefits of the holistic approach, but the reality is that many of them haven’t kept up with the advances that can make addiction recovery smoother, less painful, and more effective. Others simply don’t have the training to address all the underlying factors of addiction.


Holistic addiction treatment vs. traditional addiction recovery

These days, more and more people are turning to holistic approaches for recovery. Why? Because holistic treatments acknowledge that addiction isn’t merely a physical issue; it’s a complex web of mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges that demand comprehensive and integrative solutions.

This complexity of addiction is one of many reasons I chose to be part of an integrative team here at the center. Being able to collaborate easily and quickly with prescribers, wellness practitioners, IV therapy nurses and others helps me achieve better outcomes for my patients. It also puts just about everything a recovering patient needs under one roof, which I think is essential. Addiction recovery is hard enough without needing to juggle several different providers all over town.

Traditional addiction recovery models aren’t all bad of course, so to be more fair and balanced I’ll also include a few possible downsides of the holistic approach. The main downside is cost —  a lot of your treatment will probably not be covered by insurance.

That said, we see patients who have been on an endless cycle of relapsing. In some cases they’ve been in and out of rehab facilities for years. The cost of this less effective treatment is astoundingly high, not just financially, but also in the time commitment and the strain it puts on one’s personal and professional lives.

The benefits of a holistic approach to drug and alcohol dependency

Here are the key benefits of choosing a holistic approach to addiction recovery over a more traditional one:

1. Comprehensive care

Holistic treatments consider all aspects of a person’s well-being, including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. This comprehensive care can lead to a deeper, more sustained recovery.

2. Addressing root concerns

One significant advantage of holistic treatment is its focus on uncovering and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, rather than just managing the symptoms. These root causes can include factors such as past trauma, chronic stress, mental health conditions, or difficult life circumstances. By identifying and addressing these root causes directly, holistic treatments can break the cycle of addiction at its source, leading to more effective, long-lasting recovery with less chances of relapse.

3. Dual diagnosis and co-occurring disorders

Addiction is often accompanied by other mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or trauma. It’s impossible to fully recover and gain your life back if these co-occurring challenges aren’t dealt with. 

Our Integrative center is well suited to this because we already treat the full spectrum of mental health needs on a daily basis.

4. Individualized treatment

Every person’s experience with addiction is unique, so a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment isn’t always effective. Holistic treatments are often more flexible and customizable, tailored to each person’s specific needs, preferences, and circumstances. 

5. Whole-person wellness

Instead of just focusing on eliminating substance use, holistic recovery aims to improve overall health and wellness. This may include strategies for stress management, improving nutrition, incorporating physical activity, and fostering positive relationships. This broader focus can improve quality of life and help prevent relapse.

6. Non-medical therapies

Holistic recovery often revolves around alternative or complementary therapies that can enhance traditional treatment. This might include mindfulness meditation, yoga, acupuncture, art therapy, or outdoor activities. These can provide additional ways to manage stress, express emotions, and improve mental and physical health. Holistic providers are used to meeting patients where they are on the spectrum of traditional and alternative options.

7. Skills for life

Holistic treatment programs often include elements like life skills training, career counseling, and family therapy. These can help people in recovery build a stable, fulfilling life beyond just being sober. Achieving lifestyle changes is easier than one might think when using the right clinical professional!

8. Empowerment

A holistic approach empowers you to take an active role in your recovery. You learn skills and strategies that not only help you achieve sobriety but also improve overall well-being. You can also gain tools that help you foster resilience, better coping skills, and other aspects of personal growth.

9. Prevention of future issues

By dealing with the root causes of addiction, holistic treatment can prevent future related issues, such as relapse, mental health problems, or the development of new addictions. It’s a proactive and preventive approach.

Are you looking for help with addiction recovery?

Let's get you back to thriving and enjoying life. Contact us today for a free 15-minute addiction consultation with our lead therapist, licensed addiction counselor Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT.

What are the downsides of a holistic approach?

Despite the numerous benefits of a holistic approach to addiction recovery, there can also be potential downsides. Here are some to consider:

1. Lack of standardization

One of the strengths of holistic treatment — its individualized, flexible nature — can also be a potential downside. Due to the variety of treatments and techniques used, there is less standardization compared to more traditional approaches. This can make it difficult for patients to know exactly what to expect from their practitioners and can lead to variability in the quality of treatment.

2. Time commitment

Holistic treatments often require a significant time commitment. The comprehensive nature of these programs, encompassing a range of therapies and lifestyle changes, can require more of a time investment compared to traditional treatments that focus solely on substance use. In our opinion, the additional investment in your recovery is well-worth it though.

3. Cost

Some holistic treatments, particularly those that incorporate complementary and alternative therapies, may not be covered by insurance. This can make holistic treatment more expensive for some patients. At our center we don’t take insurance, but we offer superbills that help clients get reimbursed for certain treatments depending on their plans. However, the more traditional care you receive, the more likely it is to be covered by insurance.
As mentioned above, I believe a holistic care plan for addiction often winds up being less expensive over time. It can save you from an endless cycle of rehab facilities. It can also reduce the time and strain that a potential relapse takes on our careers and our relationships.

4. Limited research in some cases

While many aspects of holistic treatment are supported by research, some complementary therapies have less scientific evidence backing their effectiveness. This doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial, but their impact may be less known, and less predictable.
That said, many standardized treatments do not have high rates of effectiveness, so data and evidence should be compared and carefully considered. And don’t be shy about asking your treatment provider how evidence-based a particular treatment is.

5. Potential over-emphasis on self-healing

While the holistic approach emphasizes empowerment and personal growth, it can sometimes lead to an overemphasis on self-healing. Patients may feel pressure to “fix themselves,” which can be overwhelming and counterproductive, especially without proper support. Our approach is different, contemplative, and effective.

The bottom line

Holistic addiction treatment offers new strategies to overcome the struggles of addiction. It respects the complexity of addiction, treating it as a multifaceted issue and a disease rather than a simple physical dependency or worse — a moral failing.
I sincerely believe this model can help turn the tide in the opioid epidemic and help all addiction patients achieve better outcomes, not just for drug and alcohol dependency but also for gambling, shopping, and porn addiction as well. 
As more practitioners and patients alike discover the advantages of a holistic approach to addiction recovery, I strongly hope it will become the new normal.
 — Cynthia

Ready to fight addiction on your terms?

If you’re looking for ouptatient addiction treatment, our center offers you both traditional and innovative treatment options to fight addiction on your terms.

Based in Centennial, just south of the Denver tech center, our integrative team of addiction and mental health specialists will do everything in their power to make your recovery as comfortable and effective as possible. We’ll also work hard to give you the most continuity possible, so that your personal and professional lives aren’t put on hold while you get treatment.

To learn more, contact us today and schedule a free 15-minute consultation with our lead therapist, licensed addiction counselor Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT. She’ll be happy to help you determine if our outpatient program is the best choice for you or your loved ones.

If you’d like to learn more or schedule your first appointment, please fill out the contact form below or call our patient care team at (720)698-9710. Online appointments for most of our providers can be made here.

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia is a clinical psychotherapist, licensed addiction counselor, and our lead therapist at Ballen Medical & Wellness. She specializes in a myriad of treatment modalities ranging from general psychological concerns to relationship/marriage & family therapy, depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, pre & post-divorce issues, sexual abuse, co-occurring disorders, and trauma-informed systemic psychotherapy.

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