Breaking the Paradigm: Integrating Newer Therapies into Addiction Treatment

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The Limits of Conventional Addiction Treatment

Whenever therapies are called “modern” or “alternative,” they carry with them the misconception that these treatments are half-baked or unproven methods designed primarily to make money. The traditional concept of addiction treatment consists of detox withdrawal management and rehab. Rehab itself is usually regarded as a model of care that consists of little more than group and individualized counseling, perhaps with a few added cognitive and trauma-related therapies. As addiction care continues to evolve, the limits of this conventional treatment paradigm become more apparent.

Studies have shown that the “one size fits all” approach to addiction treatment does not work.  Just as people are different, so too are their responses to various therapies.
The Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients who were matched to therapies based upon their individual needs “stayed in treatment longer, were more likely to complete treatment, and had better post-treatment outcomes than did the standard patients treated in the same programs.”  The study went on to report a 30 percent increase in effectiveness when implementing a personalized approach to the substance abuse treatment.[1]

Innovation: One Therapy at a Time

It’s critical to remember that patients are people, first and foremost. They don’t forget their needs, interests, fears, and passions when they enter luxury addiction treatment. In fact, this is the point at which many of them tend to cling to the things they love the most. It’s important, whenever possible, that treatment facilities take the complexity of each patient into account and offer therapies that can appeal to the person the patient is or wishes to be, outside of his/her addiction.  More and more facilities are starting to offer different specialty therapies, such as fitness, arts, and spirituality, into their treatment programs; however, many still lack the foresight and resources to integrate them effectively.

A Supplement to Traditional Treatment

Non-traditional therapies are not used to supplant the established style of treatment; instead, they are assimilated into existing conventional therapy programs for enhanced total care.  Some of these alternative therapies include:
Non-traditional therapies are part of a holistic approach to addiction treatment that takes into account the patient’s mental and social factors.  In the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, it was reported that this inclusive method helps “patients [in substance abuse treatment] develop a stronger sense of self-identity, self-esteem, and self-confidence.”[2]

Katie Witkiewitz, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico, has extensively researched the use of non-traditional therapies in addiction treatment.  Research spearheaded by Dr. Witkiewitz found the correlation between depression, craving and substance abuse relapse.  The same study attributed the reduction of substance abuse relapses to the use of mindful meditation practices that taught “alternative responses to emotional discomfort to lessen the conditioned response of craving in the presence of depressive symptoms.”  Four months after learning mindful meditation techniques, 73 percent of the participants in the study reported successfully using mindful meditation to decrease depression and cravings.[3]

In another study by Dr. Witkiewitz, the effectiveness of adding mindful meditation therapies to traditional treatments in a substance use relapse prevention program was examined. Participants were monitored during an eight-week outpatient setting in which assessments were performed before and immediately after treatment, as well as two and four months after treatment was completed. It was reported that patients who utilized mindful meditation experienced “significantly lower rates of substance use” than patients who had undergone only traditional treatments. The study advised the use of mindful meditation as “an aftercare approach for individuals who have recently completed an intensive treatment for substance use disorders.”[4]

Integration of Alternative and Traditional Treatments

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) conducted a survey to ascertain the attitudes of physicians towards alternative therapies. Twenty-six percent of the doctors surveyed themselves have utilized one or more non-traditional treatment methods, while 81 percent of them wanted training in order to administer these therapies to their patients. The findings of the study indicated that “alternative methods of treatment are currently being used to complement orthodox medicine and an expansion in their use appears imminent.”[5]

The more that these therapies are embraced, the more that patients can be healed from the inside out. Using a gathered knowledge of patients’ fears, interests, and emotional history leads to better-informed treatments. Non-traditional therapies can also be incorporated into aftercare plans. Many patients at Seaside Palm Beach have explored new interests in therapy and have wound up integrating them into their everyday lives after they completed their programs.

The Sky’s the Limit

The true beauty of this modular approach to supplement therapy is that the potential is practically limitless. For instance, one study has shown how art therapy can help patients increase their self-confidence, reduce stress, manage behavior and gain heightened self-awareness. However, other patients might respond in similar ways to creative writing, or music therapy or animal-assisted programs.The true beauty of this modular approach to supplement therapy is that the potential is practically limitless.

The National Institutes of Health found that 38.3 percent of adults in the United States have used some form of non-traditional therapy.[6]  Ninety-five percent of patients who engage in alternative treatments do so in conjunction with traditional therapeutics.[7]  In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the results of a nationwide study on why patients use alternative therapies were given.  It was reported that patients do not choose non-traditional therapies because they are frustrated with conventional medicine; rather, those who engage in alternative techniques find “these healthcare alternatives to be more congruent with their own values, beliefs and philosophical orientations toward health and life.”[8]

If we are to truly embrace and practice the idea of holistic treatment, we must be prepared to recognize the humanity in patients and offer therapeutic resources that cater to who they are as people, not just addicts. There is ample research that confirms the effective treatment of the disease of addiction involves treating the whole person.

Comprehensive Addiction Treatment at Seaside Palm Beach

Managing the underlying physical, mental, and spiritual issues that fuel addiction disorders is the priority at Seaside Palm Beach.  We promote total wellness by combining clinically-proven treatments with non-traditional therapies to provide an integrated approach to care in a luxurious setting.  Compassion, confidentiality, and comfort are offered at each stage of the treatment process so that patients suffering from substance addiction can completely focus on their recovery and maintaining sobriety.  If you or your loved one wants to break the chains of addiction, please contact us for a private consultation.  Let Seaside Palm Beach guide you back to a balanced and healthy life.


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