- Written by Marcel Gemme C.C.D.C
Holistic health is an ancient concept: if a person is ill, treatment must take into account the whole person, including their entire body and its physical needs, as well as all the social, spiritual, and mental needs that make us more than simply biologically human. The current model for health in Canada and most western nations is the medical model. This is different from a holistic approach to health, in both philosophy and practice. When people think about the benefit derived from the services of acupuncturists, chiropractors, herbalists, nutritionists, priests, ministers, teachers, personal trainers, and life coaches, this represents partially holistic thinking about health. Holistic health and healing practices date back to ancient China and India, and were derived from ideas about living in harmony with one’s surroundings in the natural world. Today, holistic healing is often categorized as alternative medicine, and it is by definition different from the kind of healing typically received in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
Drug rehabilitation centers which are residential and personal in their approach often call themselves “recovery homes.” There are many in Canada, especially in Ontario and Alberta. Often, these are run by non-profit charitable organizations, and may be Christian in affiliation. Many are designed specifically for youth, or for certain kinds of addictions. Often, the founders of recovery homes focus on their being homes within communities, and the philosophy that a home-like atmosphere is more therapeutic than an institutional atmosphere prevails. One Canadian recovery home claims that the focus is on a treatment that will transition back to the patient’s home. Avoiding a boarding house atmosphere is usually an explicit goal.
Recovery homes are more likely to be designated just for men or just for women, as well. They will usually have more strict limits on the number of people treated at any given time. Recovery homes are more likely to have holistic-like approaches to healing an addiction, but not all of them are necessarily holistic.
In the view of professionals at holistic drug rehab centers, revealing and understanding the sometimes unique, sometimes universal issues that plague the holistic health of one’s body is necessary before true and permanent healing can take place. Spiritual and emotional support are important elements of treatment at a holistic rehab center, and part of the process may include identifying resources one was previously unaware of, both inner resources like courage and faith and environmental resources like a supportive network of people and a calming and health-promoting place to spend time.
The holistic approach to prescribed medication addiction treatment will include and/or feature aspects of treatment that traditional rehab centers do not. For example, structured art, yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or other relaxing and therapeutic activities may be offered or featured at a holistic rehab facility in Canada. Quality centers will offer exercise facilities and nutritional meals as well as food- and lifestyle- related counseling. Gaining or regaining a sense of meaning and purpose is key to holistic recovery.
Holistic treatment proponents recognize that a person who has learned to abuse prescribed medicine has in fact changed his or her neurochemistry. Neurochemistry affects a person’s personality, their dreams, their goals, their memories, their mental skills, their emotional capacity, etc. etc. The people who work at traditional rehabilitation facilities interpret the plasticity of our brain chemistry in ways that are both more simplistic and less simplistic than those who are employed at holistic centers. Combining therapy and drug use is the most typical treatment plan at a traditional facility, and for good reason: this type of plan is informed by a great deal of complex psychiatric research. However, when treatment is holistic in nature, the focus is shifted from the level of psychiatry andto the level of the patient, as a unique individual.
The work of re-building relationships ruined due to prescription drug abuse, for example, can be both difficult and complex. It can require the commitment of professionals who have years of experience healing relationships between clients and their social contacts. Holistic rehab centers share a commitment to improving the physical conditioning of their client’s bodies. The fact that it can set people on a lifelong path of culturing both the mind and body is one of the most obvious benefits of holistic treatment.
Unfortunately, addiction to prescription drugs is a growing problem in Canada. However, this means that addiction treatment options are also growing, as well as the class of professionals who devote their lives to gaining education about and experience with drug addiction treatment. Professionals in the field of substance abuse treatment can become burnt out or jaded. Some can be insensitive or can use treatment methods that do not actually work. But for the most part, substance abuse professionals come to work each day because they genuinely want to help people get better. Most succeed at doing this in a healthy and compassionate way.
Canada’s holistic rehab facilities are likely to be full of supportive and well-trained professionals who really believe in the specific philosophy guiding treatment at that facility. Many offer support groups or classes about addiction, recovery, or coping techniques. Consultations can be done over the telephone or in person. By the time a person in need of treatment has gone to the trouble of finding out about rehabilitation facilities, he or she probably has enough information, but not enough courage. Such as person should try to speak to an actual person, if only to learn about an upcoming class or support group, today.
Denial of the problem of prescribed drug dependency can come from at least three places. The person with the addiction or dependency may vehemently deny that it is a problem. He may admit to the consistency of their prescription drug use, to the greater need for the drug than when first taking it, and even to a lack of grace or character when seeking more of the drug. But what he may not admit is that it is a problem. He will provide numerous excuses if he is in denial. Recovery cannot begin when the person with the prescription drug addiction does not admit they have a problem. Period.
Denial by society also plays a huge role in discouraging recovery. Many people believe that prescription drug dependency is not in the same category as, for instance, alcohol or cocaine dependency. Prescriptions drugs seem to benefit from a halo effect – the substance came to that person by a doctor’s orders and not by a drug dealer’s law-breaking. Many people are not prepared to look for signs of addiction in someone using prescription drugs, and many others are unwilling to recognize a need for treatment.
First of all, taking the time to think rationally about the possibility of a prescription drug problem, and then learning accurate information about a friend or family member’s prescription drug use, in case help is needed, is very praiseworthy. Addictions to prescription drugs may begin slowly, when a person takes too many pills or takes them incorrectly. Problems usually arise when he or she seeks prescriptions from different doctors or attempts to buy the prescription drug illegally, sans prescription. Identifying other negative behaviors, like decreasing the amount of time spent with friends or family, stealing, or lying, should be a big red flag to keep observing and asking respectful questions. By themselves, these things do not necessarily mean a person has developed or will develop a prescription drug addiction. The person could be experiencing depression, stress, normal developmental changes, or she may be abusing a different substance. However, if use of the prescription medicine seems unduly connected with the appearance of such problems, talking with a close mutual friend or family member about it, and/or thinking about the best way for that person to hear questions and concerns and making an intervention plan is the next responsible step to take.
Short answer: yes. Long answer: community well-being is a big part of holistic healing, and some forms of traditional therapy are proven to enhance community well-being. Almost all holistic healing centers are designed to encourage interaction between patients. Since professionals at holistic rehab centers profess the belief that each person has something to learn from every other person, they plan and encourage support groups and various other forms of group problem solving. This does not mean that the holistic healing professional is devoted to some kind of mass, one-size-fits-all treatment. On the contrary, traditional forms of group or individual therapy may comprise a small or large part of each client’s individualized treatment. But insofar as proponents of traditional psychological or psychiatric therapy delineate certain holistic practices (like an explicitly spiritual orientation, or acupuncture, or herbal treatments) as outside of the realm of traditional therapy, it is not accurate to claim that holistic healing professionals engage in traditional therapy. Rather, they may utilize traditional therapeutic techniques.
Day to day life in a holistic treatment facility varies widely based on the individual facility, but typical patterns of eating, bathing, and sleeping are respected. The difference between day to day life in and outside a holistic facility is in the fact that a person residing in a holistic center is always focused, in some way, on creating a new and different worldview and lifestyle. All activities are scheduled and/or offered according to this premise. Most facilities will adjust a person’s daily schedule according to his or her changing array of needs over the healing timeline. Most holistic facilities use participation in support groups or nutrition counseling to provide new ways of thinking about healthier lifestyles. All encourage responsible and healthy exercise, and most offer appealing settings for exercise, like gyms, pristine outdoor spaces, and pools. Other facilities specialize their offerings around a belief in the powerful healing properties of yoga, Pilates, acupuncture, or even horseback riding. Usually, the employees at the holistic rehab center will encourage, but will not pressure their clients to participate.
Non-holistic facilities available to Canadians are highly variable. They may be public or private. Their staff may be primarily focused on a very impersonal process of detoxification, or even on mostly outpatient solutions. Some non-holistic centers do not fail to offer holistic-like treatment, in which the entire human being is addressed and healed, but often the variety of resources available at a holistic center are just not available at other centers. Thus, a patient’s willingness to engage in activities or treatments may not matter as much at a non-holistic facility, since many kinds of holistic-like treatments are not even available. The patient at a non-holistic center may feel like there are fewer choices, and fewer possibilities for experiencing a healing approach that really works.
The non-holistic rehabilitation facility will need to ensure that their Chemical Dependency Counselors are certified, and thus the training and professional expectations of employees at all rehabilitation facilities in Canada will be similar in many ways.