Holistic Therapy: Types, Benefits & Effectiveness

Holistic therapy utilizes physical, mental, and spiritual well-being to help people develop a deeper understanding of themselves and recover from mental health disorders. Therapies can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in people with substance use disorders.

Every year, millions of Americans seek substance abuse therapy to overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

There are several treatment approaches for people with substance use disorders (SUD), such as cognitive behavioral therapy and holistic therapy.

Holistic therapies cover a range of mind, body, and spiritual practices that can help alleviate the symptoms of mental health disorders, such as SUD. It may also benefit overall well-being.

Read on to learn more about holistic therapies and their effectiveness in treating addiction.

What Is Holistic Therapy?

Holistic therapy is a term used to cover several therapeutic practices aiming to address not just the mental but also the physical, emotional, and spiritual sides of a person in recovery.

Some holistic approaches focus on one or more senses and can be tailored to a client’s needs. Doctors may recommend trying out holistic approaches along with evidence-based treatments.

Holistic methods are not only used to treat addiction, they can be beneficial for anyone living with chronic pain, depression, panic disorders, and other conditions.

Most Common Holistic Therapy Approaches

Below are some of the most common holistic methods used in drug rehab centers in New England and across the U.S.

Music Therapy

During music therapy, clients might sing, dance, or listen to a piece of music or sounds, then respond by journaling or expressing verbally how the piece made them feel.

Connecting with music may help clients to label their emotions and connect with the feelings a certain piece of music elicits.

There are several forms of music therapy that a music therapist may use. Music therapy does not require a musical background, and anyone can practice this.

Expression through music may be a pathway to opening up about trauma, memories, or thoughts you wouldn’t otherwise explore or be able to access.


Breathwork techniques focus on using an act we continuously do (breathing) for our mental health benefit.

Instructors guide people on appropriate styles of breathing, such as circular breathing or connected breathing, which open up the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.

Sessions can last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and may include music, dance, or singing.

Controlled breathing is a practice you can try from the comfort of your home if you’re not ready to participate in an in-person session or addiction treatment program.

There are several free resources on YouTube and apps that provide helpful guidance through different breathing methods.

One such app is COVID Coach, a free app provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with several guided meditations, breathing exercises, and other tools to manage stress, sleep disturbances, and mental well-being.


Yoga is one of the most practiced forms of holistic therapy. In 2016, over 36 million Americans used yoga to reduce stress.

Stress has been proven to increase a person’s vulnerability to addiction and relapse during recovery, so learning how to manage stress triggers is essential for sobriety.

This holistic approach aims to create a free-flowing calm throughout the body by focusing on joining muscular activity with mindful breathing.

During this practice, you may engage in various poses for an extended time in a calm, safe environment. Yoga can be done alone or in a group.

As with breathing exercises, there are several free yoga classes available on YouTube to help you explore this holistic method. You might try a 5- or 10-minute yoga class to get started.


Meditation is another popular form of holistic treatment. Meditation may be guided (led with someone else’s instruction) or practiced alone in silence.

The goal of meditation is to focus on your breathing and find stillness. You can allow thoughts to enter your brain without judgment, and then let them leave just as quickly as they came.

Forms of guided meditation may ask you to focus on a specific thought or feeling, such as gratitude, letting go of control, or patience.

Many substance abuse treatment programs utilize meditation as a way to begin or end a class to help center the mind and body.


Reiki is a newer form of holistic treatment founded in the 1900s that uses the power of gentle touch to ease anxiety.

Practitioners place their hands on specific energy locations on the body and act as a conduit between the patient and the universal life force.

People report feeling waves of peace and calmness flow through their bodies while in a reiki session.

Other Holistic Activities

Any healthy activity that gets you out of your head and focused on something else can be considered a holistic activity.

Holistic activities can be:

  • running, walking, jogging, or hiking
  • biking
  • reading
  • journaling or creative writing
  • drawing, painting, or coloring
  • horseback riding

While some of these may not be certified as treatment, they can address the same concerns that holistic treatment practices address.

What Are Some Benefits Of Holistic Therapy?

There are many benefits people may gain from trying any of the above-mentioned holistic approaches.

On top of being healthy ways to occupy someone’s time in recovery, holistic approaches also offer several physical and mental benefits.

The benefits of holistic therapy are:

  • reducing stress and anxiety
  • releasing endorphins in the body that lead to better mood and lowered depression
  • feelings of peace, calm, and serenity
  • rehabilitation from muscle, joint, and other physical pain
  • better sleep patterns
  • building strength and increasing blood flow
  • help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • a sense of community and purpose

How Effective Is Holistic Therapy?

The effectiveness of holistic therapy is hard to measure because so many different therapeutic approaches and activities fall under the “holistic” category.

Many medical professionals suggest that holistic practices work best in conjunction with evidence-based forms of treatment, such as medication-assisted treatment or dialectical behavior therapy.

More evidence is found when a combined holistic and medicinal/mental health treatment occurs.

For example, one study found that patients in an outpatient program (OP) gained a greater sense of self-identity, self-esteem, and self-confidence when involved in regular therapy and holistic activities.

A Harvard study found that people who regularly engage in yoga have a 20% higher likelihood of having a positive self-image and improved mental health.

Addiction Treatment In Massachusetts

If you or a loved one are looking for addiction treatment options, help is available.

Our inpatient rehabilitation, OP, and intensive outpatient options at Spring Hill Recovery Center employ a range of therapy approaches for addiction recovery.

Reach out to one of our drug specialists and find addiction treatment in Massachusetts today.

  1. Harvard Health — New Survey Reveals The Rapid Rise Of Yoga And Why Some People Haven’t Tried It https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-survey-reveals-the-rapid-rise-of-yoga-and-why-some-people-still-havent-tried-it-201603079179
  2. National Library Of Medicine — An Holistic Approach To Substance Abuse Treatment https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12924747/

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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