Types of Alternative Therapies Used in Addiction Recovery

Alternative TherapyAddiction recovery is a multi-layered process that deals with many aspects of the human condition. Unlike other illnesses that may require a shot or some new miracle drug to fix them, the illness of addiction needs to be treated on varying levels. Addiction recovery must address:

  • The physical aspects of recovery
  • The mental and psychological aspects (including the possibility of dual diagnoses)
  • The spiritual aspects of recovery
  • The forgiveness aspects of recovery

In order to better address these many different parts of the recovery process, many treatment centers have instituted alternative therapies to help the recovering addict learn coping skills, forgiveness, and how to reach a state of consciousness they can enjoy without the use of dangerous drugs or alcohol.

Equine Therapy

The use of horses in several therapeutic areas has become more popular in recent years. In the case of alcohol and drug rehab, the addict may be asked to care for the needs of an animal or to care for the animal itself. One possible benefit from this type of activity has to do with learning to communicate effectively. For instance, when a horse doesn’t want to do something, it takes compassion, deliberateness, confidence and control to convince the horse to cooperate. These skills are all beneficial to someone who has felt out of control for quite some time.

Meditation and Yoga

The quiet times during a treatment program can be the most profound. Many people afflicted with drug and alcohol addictions have avoided being alone with themselves for a long period of time. Meditation and exercise, like yoga, can reconnect an individual to their inner self and help them figure out healthy ways to find the peace they seek.

Reiki and Massage

Reiki is an energetic healing modality that is centuries old. The Reiki practitioner places their hands either on or directly above their clients to move physical energies into alignment. Several institutions, including the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), have conducted studies regarding the use of Reiki to treat pain, stress, nausea and other symptoms that might come into play in a rehabilitation setting.

While the jury is still out because of the small size of the participant groups, those who prefer energy healing have found great benefit in the use of Reiki and traditional massage therapy during the recovery process.


Art therapy can include learning the basics of playing an instrument, painting, sculpting and other forms of artistic expression, including writing. According to Dr. James W. Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin, “Writing about emotional upheavals in our lives can improve physical and mental health.” He spoke of the benefits of creating and artistic writing with the National Institute of Health’s News in Health publication in 2008.

Entering a recovery center is a very personal choice. Choosing one that offers alternative therapies as well as traditional modalities for treatment can make the experience more personal, less “medicinal” and create the avenues of expression to help the recovering addict remain healthy in the future.