What does 'holistic rehab' mean?

What is ‘Holistic’ Drug Rehab?

Holistic drug and alcohol recovery programs are becoming increasingly popular within the rehabilitation community. But what does ‘holistic’ actually mean and how does a holistic approach to rehab help people to recover from substance addiction?

Holistic Drug and Alcohol Addiction Rehabilitation - a Definition

The term ‘holistic’ is used quite frequently in drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment programs. However, some rehab centres use the term quite loosely, and may not actually provide truly holistic therapies at all. If you’re seeking an authentically holistic rehab, it pays to understand what this means and what therapies fall under the umbrella term of ‘holistic’.

Let’s start with the word ‘holistic’...

By defining what we mean by holistic rehab, it helps to start with the word ‘holistic’:

ho·lis·tic: characterized by comprehension of parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole

Holistic rehab is therefore an approach to rehabilitation that doesn’t just look at the addiction as if it exists in and of itself, instead it takes into account the ‘whole’ person: body, mind, spirit, and complex emotions. Holistic rehab also takes into account family history, childhood trauma, along with more pragmatic aspects such as diet and nutrition, sleep quality, undiagnosed health problems, stress factors, and relationships.

Holistic rehabilitation looks at the ‘whole’ person - rather than just the addiction.

A holistic approach to addiction non-judgmentally examines all the interdependent aspects of an individual, and how all of these multivarious factors have brought them to their present circumstances. The underlying assumption is that any one individual is made up of interdependent ‘parts’ and if one of these is not functioning it throws the whole being into imbalance -- often characterized as an addictive pattern of behaviour or mental illness -- or both.

Does holistic rehab work better than ‘conventional’ rehab?

Rehab programs that integrate holistic treatments with conventional rehabilitation have been shown to be more effective in improving recovery rates and preventing relapse. This is because holistic treatment incorporates the mind, body and spiritual aspects of an individual into the overall recovery process.

In our experience, no addiction exists on its own as a simply ‘physical’ problem or a problem of simple ‘willpower’. It is always a symptom of something else that is going on, there is always an underlying reason for the addiction. In this way a holistic approach gets to the ‘root’ cause of the problem of addiction.

Another important benefit of a holistic approach is that it works to change the harmful, ingrained patterns of negative behaviour that may have contributed to the addiction. For example, someone with alcoholism may have not eaten breakfast in years. The lack of breakfast in their diet may have contributed to low blood sugar levels which were masked by the sugar content of alcohol, thereby reinforcing a negative spiral of behaviour.

A holistic approach helps the individual to learn new healthier nutritional and lifestyle habits along with an understanding of how these work to support their healing and long-term recovery.

Dual Diagnosis: addiction, trauma, and PTSD

With a holistic approach it is assumed that most addictions are co-existing with a psychological issue such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Often these conditions may have been lying dormant for years -- if not decades -- but are profoundly affecting how the individual connects with the world around them.

Dual diagnosis means that these coexisting issues are intimately intertwined and will both require treatment if recovery is to be sustainable in the long-term.

Read more about the relationship between mental illness and substance abuse here.

How do detox and withdrawal work within holistic rehabilitation?

As with any reputable drug rehabilitation program, your rehabilitation starts with withdrawal and physical detox from the substance of addiction. Typically, for most people, this is the most feared part of drug rehabilitation. A holistic approach treats the physical symptoms of addiction first with a medically supported detox program that is as safe, stress-free, and comfortable as possible. We believe that the detox process should not add more trauma but should we worked through as efficiently and as painlessly as possible so that the real work of rehabilitation can begin.

Once an individual has moved through detox, we can then begin the long-term rehabilitation process using holistic therapies.

Read more about comfortable, medically supported detox here.

What are the specific therapies that make up holistic rehabilitation:

Read more about the specific modalities that make up holistic rehabilitation here.

Need more information about holistic detox and rehabilitation?

If you’d like to know more about our approach to holistic drug and alcohol rehab please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +61 2 6684 4240 (Australia) or +1 310 220 0352 (USA).