By Madeleine Narvilas, Esq., LCSW –Director of HeadWaters at Origins
Evidenced-based programs that take a holistic approach to treatment are particularly successful when they are focused on incorporating aspects of alternative healing as helpful adjuncts to treatments. At HeadWaters, our clients have access to several different holistic services options within our unique approach to addiction recovery.
As health care professionals concerned with identifying and maximizing quality of life and movement, physical therapists (PTs) are particularly dedicated to promoting, maintaining and restoring the physical, psychological and social well-being of our clients as they consider variations in health status. PTs conduct science-based evaluations and use these to develop individualized plans of treatment aimed at restoring neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory health through carefully selected, functionally based exercise programs. Additionally, pain relieving therapeutic modalities may be incorporated to complement client treatment goals as needed.
Water can provide an excellent medium for exercise. Not only does working out in water increase flexibility and range of motion, aqua therapy also provides excellent resistance for building strength via swimming, bouncing, jumping, kicking or running activities. The aquatic environment is gentle on joints since the buoyancy factor reduces weight-bearing forces on the lower extremities. As an added benefit, warm water can help relax tired muscles and promote much needed relaxation.
This ancient Chinese medical technique is most commonly used to treat pain by the insertion of extremely thin needles through a client’s skin at points on his or her body that correspond with energy flow. Acupuncture is a traditional Eastern medical technique, which follows the belief that the life force – or chi – flows through specific meridians or pathways within the body. Inserting acupuncture needles along these pathways is thought to help balance the body’s energy flow. It may also boost the body’s natural ability to heal itself by increasing circulatory flow.
The therapeutic practice of manipulating the body’s soft tissue and muscle with the hands and fingers has been in practice for thousands of years. Many different massage therapy styles are available for HeadWaters’ clients — deep tissue, hot stone, Thai and Swedish massage. Each utilizes a specific way of applying pressure and facilitating movement. The numerous health benefits of massage include: relieving pain symptoms; reducing of stress; healing injuries; addressing certain health conditions such as poor circulation, postural abnormalities or reduced range of motion; encouraging rest and relaxation; and promoting overall wellness.
When a person empties his or her mind of extraneous thought, with the specific intent of elevating the mind to a level that transcends mundane concerns, many emotional and physiologic benefits can result. Meditation may be quite effective in addressing many of the complex issues associated with addiction, which often include anxiety, depression, fear, insomnia, muscle tension, pain, panic attacks, phobias, shock, stress, and tension, among other conditions. Positive physiologic effects of meditation may consist of reductions in heart, breathing and blood pressure rates and minimized adverse activity in regions of the cerebral cortex.
A well-known Japanese technique for reducing stress and promoting relaxation, the practice of Reiki also promotes physical healing. As trained practitioners “lay on hands” in a very specific way, they may be able to help redirect clients’ low life force energy levels in more positive directions. With an increased energy level, Reiki clients report experiencing a feeling of radiance that is spiritually holistic, and they say they feel healthier and happier. Many also describe feelings of greater peace, relaxation and security. Reiki is a simple, safe and natural method of healing that complements other medical and therapeutic techniques to promote recovery.
The word Qigong (pronounced “Chi Kung”) is made up of two Chinese words: “Qi” refers to the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe; and “Gong” is translated to mean a skill or accomplishment that is developed through steady practice. This holistic practice is dedicated to cultivating energy and has been practiced for centuries as a way of maintaining health and increasing vitality. By integrating physical postures, focused intentions and specialized breathing techniques, Qigong can be tailored to address martial, spiritual or medical goals. Styles of practice can range from soft forms such as Tai Chi, to vigorous styles such as Kung Fu. Quigong is an important form of alternative complementary medicine as it creates an intentional awareness of being that is rarely addressed through traditional exercise programs.
This holistic technique addresses trauma as it bypasses the higher cognitive centers of the brain to engage sensations associated with the more primitive parts of the brain through the autonomic nervous system. Evidence shows that alcohol, drugs and other compulsive behaviors can be used as ways to self-medicate in an effort to deny or escape from uncomfortable experiences, emotions or episodes of traumatic stress. Somatic Experiencing is founded on the wisdom that because trauma is at least partly a physiological condition, the body must be included in the therapy. Somatic Experiencing strives to discharge and neutralize the negative survival energy and tension associated with traumatic experiences. This pent-up energy may be released from the body through trembling, sweating, crying or yawning.
Another effective area by which clients may participate in experiential somatic therapies is working with breathing patterns in very specific ways. The practice of breathwork can bring up a lot of unexpected emotions. It may also move the body toward a deeper state of meditative relaxation, which people with addictions often can’t reach by themselves because they don’t understand alternative techniques for self-regulation — either emotionally or physically.
The ancient practice of yoga encourages individuals to address and nourish the body, mind, breath and spirit as one system. Yoga is a holistic approach that promotes a balanced lifestyle of health and well-being through the use of certain patterns of breath while performing sustained poses that encourage flexibility, balance and strength. The ancient yoga philosophy of wellness works very effectively to address acute or chronic illnesses as well as specific states of disease.
Fitness professionals trained in the skills and abilities that promote safe and effective exercise management are a valuable asset to an individual’s recovery program. Personal training includes the formation of exercise design, instruction and assistance to help clients reach their desired health and fitness goals. Personal trainers are able to use a general knowledge of human anatomy and functional exercise to create highly specific programs for clients. The ability to motivate others to improve their overall fitness and health through fun and interesting workouts helps clients learn to embrace and sustain a healthier lifestyle for years to come.