October 12, 2022

Holistic Alcohol Treatment: Pros & Cons Of The Holistic Approach

An image of someone applying essential oils, depicting holistic alcohol treatment

Holistic therapy is typically delivered in combination with evidence-based treatments like MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy).

Holistic therapies are grounded in the principles of holism. A holistic approach to therapy considers your body as a whole rather than as a series of unconnected body systems. According to holistic principles, the more the various systems in your body work together in harmony, the more robust your overall health and wellbeing.

When holistic therapy is applied to addiction treatment, the focus is on treating all parts of the person rather than focusing only on aggravating symptoms triggered by alcohol abuse.


Holistic therapy draws heavily from psychosynthesis, a therapeutic approach that emphasizes personal growth and development. An integrative approach, holistic rehab aims to understand the whole person instead of lasering in on specific symptoms. 

During holistic therapy programs, treatment addresses the mind, body, and spirit. A holistic therapist adopts an integrated approach, helping you to better understand how problems in one area of your life can manifest as issues in other areas.

When applied to alcoholism treatment, a holistic approach consists of a variety of alternative, complementary, and holistic therapies delivered alongside conventional, research-backed therapies like MAT, counseling, and psychotherapy.

Holistic therapy helps you to confront your psychological, physical, and spiritual needs, providing you with a much deeper approach than one that relies only on medications and psychotherapy.

This review of studies evaluated many methods of addiction treatment. Researchers found that the effectiveness of treatment increased if a multi-dimensional, holistic approach was adopted.

Most health organizations and addiction experts agree that many interlinked factors contribute to addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder. Given that consensus, it makes sense to pursue an integrated and multi-pronged approach to addiction treatment. Holistic therapy is intended to supplement traditional treatment rather than to replace it.


Rather than directly addressing the illness, holistic treatment methods promote comprehensive physical, emotional, and psychological wellness as the most natural and effective remedy to poor health and its underlying causes.

There are many different types of holistic therapy. Some of the most common include:

    • Meditation

    • Mindfulness

    • Yoga

    • Acupressure
    • Reiki

    • Acupuncture

    • Guided meditations

    • Art therapy

    • Aromatherapy

    • Tai chi

    • Surfing

    • Hiking

    • Nutritional education

    • Biochemical restoration

    • EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing

    • Herbal therapy

    • Hypnosis

    • Animal-assisted therapy

    • Music therapy

    • Sports and exercise


Whether you need holistic therapy to treat addiction, mental health disorder, or a co-occurring disorder, the integrated approach can help in the following areas: 


    • By treating the mind

    • By treating the body

    • By treating the spirit


treat the mind using holistic healing

It is relatively straightforward to treat the body in the addiction recovery process. Withdrawing and detoxing from most substances like alcohol takes no more than a week or so. Treating the psychological aspect of alcoholism is more nuanced, though.

Your treatment team can utilize physical tests to evaluate physical problems and to work out the best treatment. The mind is more resistant to diagnosis and binary testing. Unfortunately, all addictions fundamentally impact the mind. To achieve meaningful and sustained recovery, it is imperative to address both the psychological and physical aspects of addiction.

The chronic use of any addictive substances alters brain function. If you have a loved one who seems unable to stop using alcohol or drugs despite a battery of negative outcomes, this is indicative of the compulsive need to use substances intrinsic to addiction. This compulsion stems from the brain changes that substance abuse triggers.

Recovery starts with detox and withdrawal. This deals with the physical component of addiction. Once you are substance-free, you have the firmest foundation from which to unpick the irrational behaviors and flawed patterns of thinking that might be blocking your recovery.


There are four main reasons for most people engaging with a holistic rehab program: 


    1. For the treatment of alcohol use disorders

    1. For the treatment of substance use disorders

    1. For the treatment of mental health disorders

    1. For the treatment of dual diagnosis (addictions with co-occurring mental health disorders)

All of these issues affect the body in various ways. Additionally, physical dependence is also central to most addictions.

There are many ways to approach the physical treatment of addiction. Both alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder respond favorably to MAT (medication-assisted treatment). Several FDA-approved medications can minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings. MAT can also help promote abstinence throughout treatment and into sober living. 

When holistic therapy is applied to treating the body, there are three primary goals:


    1. Healing physical damage: Oftentimes, alcohol abuse or substance abuse leads to physical damage. Treating the body can help to trigger self-repair, even if this is not wholly effective. Holistic rehab can also strengthen your body, ensuring it can cope more readily with any future damage.

    1. Boosting overall health: You should find that the regular practice of any form of holistic therapy will help you to get fitter and healthier.

    1. Maintaining optimum health: If you continue engaging with holistic therapy as you move into day-to-day living, you will be better equipped to deal with any subsequent illnesses.


It can be challenging to define the spirit, arguably the toughest aspect to treat with holistic therapy.

The things that motivate you and the elements that make you the person you are – these intangibles are part of your spirit.

Your spirit can dictate how you view your overall purpose and your hopes for the future. Addiction often robs people of hope, routinely triggering depression. When this spirals into an ongoing absence of hope set against a flawed sense of purpose, recovery can seem like an impassable obstacle rather than a managing journey.

Those with firm existing beliefs may engage with a religious aspect of spiritual treatment. Others may find it is enough just to acknowledge the existence of the spirit.


You can expect to encounter a variety of techniques in holistic rehab.

Your therapist will equip you with strategies to promote self-awareness and an understanding of the connections between your body, mind, and spirit.

Many holistic therapy techniques are grounded in the practices of bodywork and mindfulness.

You may also find your therapist uses techniques from CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). These techniques are designed to improve the mind-body-spirt connection and to promote relaxation. Practices include:


    • Breathwork

    • Meditation

    • Biofeedback

    • Acupuncture

    • Mindfulness

    • Yoga

    • Tai chi

    • Reiki

    • Hypnosis


    • Guided imagery

Many holistic therapists will also incorporate psychotherapeutic approaches like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or person-centered therapy.


While those struggling with alcoholism can benefit from holistic treatment, it should not be viewed as a substitute for a medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and counseling. Instead, holistic therapies supplement the benefits delivered by evidence-based pharmacological and behavioral interventions.

Explore the pros and cons of holistic therapy to determine whether you would benefit from its inclusion in a comprehensive and integrated treatment plan for alcoholism.



    1. Personalized attention: A holistic therapist will view you as a unique individual. Your personal history will be assessed before the most effective interventions are established. Holistic treatment can then be tailored accordingly.

    1. Sustainability: Recovery from alcoholism is an ongoing process that may not always be linear with four in ten of those in recovery relapsing. When you leave alcohol rehab, you will noy be able to take your therapist home with you. If you learn healing practices and relaxation techniques in holistic treatment, though, you can apply those skills to your life in recovery from alcoholism.

    1. Stress management: Many holistic practices act to effectively reduce anxiety and stress – mindfulness and meditation, for instance. If you continue to embrace these practices after rehab for alcoholism, you will stay stronger in the face of temptation and cravings.

    1. Streamlines recovery process: Holistic treatment can make the whole detox, rehab, and recovery process smoother and more comfortable.



    1. Limited evidence base: While funding is growing for alternative medicine studies continues to grow, there is still a limited empirical base in comparison to traditional medical approaches – MAT and psychotherapy, for example, proven effective for the treatment of alcoholism.

    1. Potentially damaging interactions: If holistic treatment involves supplements, these may interact with medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Some supplements also trigger a variety of side effects.

Despite these limited drawbacks, holistic treatment is often effective when delivered as part of an integrated treatment program for alcoholism.


Take advantage of both holistic treatment and evidence-based therapies for alcoholism here at Gratitude Lodge and build the firmest possible foundation for sustained sobriety.

We have affordable luxury rehabs for alcoholism located in Newport Beach, San Diego, and Long Beach. Our pet-friendly and inclusive treatment facilities offer distraction-free environments ideal for recovery from addiction.

Most people find that a supervised medical detox followed by a 30-day inpatient program provides the best springboard for ongoing recovery. For more information about residential rehab for alcoholism at Gratitude Lodge, reach out to the team right here.

If you have a milder alcohol use disorder and feel that intensive outpatient treatment will give you enough support and structure to encourage abstinence, connect with our IOP (intensive outpatient program).

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs for alcoholism give you access to the following services and therapies:


    • Holistic therapies

    • Family therapy

    • Group therapy

    • Individual counseling

    • Psychotherapy

    • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

    • Daily meetings

    • 12-step immersion program

We are happy to accept payment from most major health insurance providers. Check your insurance eligibility here.

When you are ready to embrace holistic treatment combined with research-backed therapies so you can fight back against alcoholism, call 800-994-2184.

Holistic alcoholism treatment FAQs

While herbal treatments may be considered complementary approaches, professional medical treatment and counseling should always be the primary focus for alcoholism. Some herbs that have been occasionally mentioned include milk thistle for liver support, kudzu root for reducing alcohol cravings, and St. John’s wort for mood-related symptoms. However, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before considering any herbal remedies.

Supplements alone are not sufficient to beat alcoholism. Professional medical treatment and counseling should be the primary focus for overcoming alcohol addiction. However, certain supplements may be beneficial for supporting overall health during recovery, such as B vitamins, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your specific situation.

There is no specific herb that can be considered a direct substitute for alcohol. It’s important to address the underlying reasons for seeking a substitute and to seek professional guidance when dealing with alcohol-related issues. Engaging in healthy activities, practicing stress reduction techniques, and seeking support from a healthcare professional or support groups may be more effective approaches than seeking a herb as a substitute for alcohol.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.