Holistic therapy is an umbrella term that covers all therapies that aim to heal and support you as a whole person. It’s a simple but powerful idea: that we are more than the problem that is ailing us, be that an eating disorder, depression, or substance addiction.
You’ll often find holistic therapies offered as part of treatment packages alongside more traditional treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication. Although less common than these traditional treatments, holistic therapy is researched-backed and proven to be effective.
More Than Just an Illness
The core philosophy of holistic therapy is that we are more than just the illness we are struggling with. Holistic therapy understands mental illnesses as symptomatic expressions of things that are going wrong in our lives. They may even see the sickness in a positive light, as a route for fostering higher awareness and growth within your life.
For example, a holistic approach to treating someone’s addiction might look beyond simply their brain chemistry and address their lifestyle, loved ones, spiritual connection, and physical health. A holistic therapeutic approach might combine psychotherapy with a course of yoga and spiritual healing, to address difficulties that the client is experiencing with their physical and spiritual health.
How Does Holistic Therapy Differ From Traditional Pharmaceutical Medicine?
The idea that mental health problems might spring from problems that we’re encountering in our lives sounds pretty simple, but is quite revolutionary within recent medical history in the United States. Since the 1960s, many treatments for mental health problems have focused primarily on ‘fixing’ clients’ brain chemistry and thought patterns, but not on wider components of the clients’ life or wellbeing.
Within western approaches to medicine, health problems including addiction are treated as a disease to be rooted out by targeting what is causing it. So in many ways, holistic medicine is a continuation of this logic; the word “holistic” just means that the therapies are willing and able to trace the root right back to its cause, even if that’s in a different region of your life to that which you might expect.
Examples of Holistic Therapy
There are hundreds of different forms of holistic therapy that you can pursue to augment your general wellbeing and strengthen your recovery. Here are just a few of them:
12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) spring from a holistic therapeutic philosophy. They draw on your connection to a higher power in order to harness the strength of your faith to help you overcome your struggle with addiction. They’re also one of the most popular forms of addiction treatment in America today.
Mindfulness therapy is a form of meditative practice that helps you to achieve a state of inner calm through intense awareness of the world around you, including the space you’re in and the thoughts and sensations occurring in your body. Mindfulness can be helpful in building skills in emotion regulation and self-control which are useful skills to those of us recovering from addiction and mental health issues. They aren’t just for treating illness, though – they build skills for life and can foster spiritual and emotional connections.
Bodywork practices employ the body as a gateway for personal development. It’s a broad term that emcompasses a number of different practices, some of which you may know, such as:
- Tai chi
- Controlled breathing
The world of holistic therapy is a rich and colorful one that has helped a lot of people improve their mental health and live rich lives in recovery. It can be used instead of or alongside more traditional therapeutic approaches. If you’re interested in learning more, talk to your healthcare provider today.