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Addiction A Holistic Approach To Recovery

Those suffering from addictions habitually engage in compulsive behaviors to avoid feelings of depression, anxiety, and other distressing mood states. Holistic Therapy offers opportunities to safely experience painful emotions while learning ways to manage destructive thoughts and behaviors. Many addictions recovery treatment programs focus on the distorted thinking and destructive behavior of the addict with less attention to the underlying depression and anxiety that drive negative thoughts and behavior.

At best addicts in treatment might attend lectures and participate in groups where speakers and participants talk about and share these feelings, but they seldom offer sufficient opportunities for addicts to directly and safely experience what they are feeling and to creatively manage their feelings. Holistic Therapy incorporates methods that do just this. Through a skillful blending of eastern methods of healing with western methods of psychotherapy Holistic Therapy teaches recovering folks how to use their senses to assess what their emotions are telling them and how to effectively manage the associated distress.

We have at least seven senses--touch, taste, smell, hearing, sight, balance, and internal sensations. Every second of every day our senses are picking up information, sending it to our brain, with our body consequently responding depending on how the brain interprets the data. Short of some kind of brain damage our responses will always include feelings. Surprising to many recovering addicts is the idea that we cannot feel a thought.

They are additionally surprised to learn that depression and anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings are always physical sensation in some form. However, a thought can elicit a great deal of physical distress in the body if the brain interprets that thought as some kind of threat to the body. For example, a worry of any kind usually has some kind of thought attached to it.

But it is not the thought that a person is feeling but the body's response to that thought. Through a complex process the brain interprets the "worry" thought as a threat to the body and immediately begins preparing it to defend itself by pouring adrenalin, cortisol, and a host of other chemicals into the body to prepare it to fight, flee, freeze, or hide. That is how the brain responds to any stress. And the felt sensation of those changes and many others is tension, tightness, pressure, heaviness or a host of other physical feelings. These changes are commonly although not always consciously experienced as depression and/or anxiety. At their most powerful, these changes can elicit the excruciating pain associated to a heart attack.

With no means to slow this process down it is not surprising that recovery fails. Holistic Therapy teaches us how to effectively and consistently ease those distressing physical sensations by noticing what each of the senses is picking up. By helping to identify what thoughts are occurring and how the body is feeling Holistic Therapy gives recovering folks the power to manage the depression and anxiety that fuels addictive behavior. As human beings we think, feel, sense, and do. We also have a mind-body-spirit that needs careful tending if we are to live peacefully and productively. Recovering from addiction, healing from the destructive consequences of addiction requires a treatment program to engage all these parts of Self.

Otherwise, what results is a temporary respite with relapse following on its heels.

Ms Desert is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Baltimore, MD with a holistic private practice and specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, trauma, and associated addictions. Read more at

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