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Mind-Body Connection in Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a uniquely challenging disease to overcome. It affects us not only physically but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. By this, we mean that the disease that drives our physical need for the substance also fuels our emotional drive to avoid overwhelming feelings and whispers lies that run through our minds on repeat. The effects of addiction are all-encompassing. It corrupts our sleep, physical health, self-concept and beliefs about the world, to name just a few. That’s why mind-body connection in addiction treatment is so important.

Treatment approaches that fail to account for each of these impacts are not as effective in ensuring long-term sobriety. While many addiction treatment programs have altered themselves to include holistic programming, we’re still learning, and studies are ongoing regarding the effectiveness of their approaches. However, preliminary research has shown that by expanding our understanding of the insidious nature of substance use disorders not only on the mind but also the body and spirit, we can offer clients truly comprehensive healing.

What Is the Mind-Body Connection in Addiction Treatment, and Why Is It Important?

The mind-body connection in addiction treatment, put simply, is the belief that our thoughts (or our mental health) affect our physical being and the inverse. While it’s commonly called the mind-body connection, it encompasses a whole-person approach to understanding each individual’s challenges, and what they need for total wellness.

A simple way of understanding this is by considering the food you eat and its effect on your mental state. When you have sugary, processed foods, you may struggle to focus and think clearly. Another example is considering how stress affects you. Not only will you likely experience thoughts related to anxiety and worry, but your body may also tense, experience nausea or have an elevated heart rate. 

Substance Abuse Effects Body, Mind and Soul

When it comes to addiction, it is not hard to see how it affects each part of us.  

  • With repeated use, the body becomes physically dependent upon the substances in order to function properly.
  • Substances fulfill an emotional need. For example, running away from the sense of overwhelm about ways we might be failing our kids or being “not good enough.”
  • Ingesting substances may also help us avoid the discomfort of anxiety or stress in our lives. This creates an emotional cycle of dependency.
  • No matter if we understand that addiction is a disease, our skewed priorities can cause us to enter a “dark night of the soul” and wonder about our moral failings.
  • Exposure to high-risk situations may end up traumatizing us as well. Situations like witnessing or experiencing a near-fatal overdose or becoming the victim of a sexual assault.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and symptoms of depression may arise from broken relationships, financial crises or legal situations.
  • Psychological factors associated with addiction, for example, stress and depression, play a major role in developing a range of illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Financial conditions may also make it challenging to access proper nutrition and healthcare when these issues arise. 
  • Co-occurring conditions such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, a love or sex addiction or personality disorders further complicate the reasons for turning to substances and enhance their foothold on your life.

It is not difficult to see how some or all of these challenges can compound upon one another, causing very little opportunity for relief without holistic whole-person change. 

Holistic Treatment for a Mind-Body Illness

To ensure that they provide the best care possible for their clients, many addiction treatment centers incorporate elements that target each of the challenges listed above. Some evidence of addressing these concerns exists in the very foundations of how we build our treatment programs here at Promises Behavioral Health. Others are expressed through the specialty programs we highlight.

Our Program Foundations

We strive to meet the needs of our clients according to the four major dimensions SAMHSA identifies that support a life in recovery:

  • Health 
    • Our dedicated treatment team and medical professionals work with our clients from detox until they graduate from the program.
  • Home 
    • Even if clients do not participate in residential treatment or transitional living, having a safe and stable place to live is a focus of our aftercare planning with clients.
  • Purpose
    • Through encouraging the development of life skills and graduated independence, we help clients find their way to full engagement with society.
  • Community
    • Within our treatment programs and beyond their walls, we facilitate a supportive environment for clients and alumni to engage in meaningful friendships.

Our Specialty Programs

While our programs differ slightly by location, each includes elements that target mind, body and soul healing. Some of these programs include:

  • Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance Through DBT
    • Most mind-body practices have a foundational core of mindfulness and distress tolerance, both core skills of Dialectical Behavior Therapy. These principles are built on the idea of being fully present in the moment. Rather than indulging the desire to escape discomfort by any means necessary. 
  • Yoga Therapy
    • Building on mindfulness, yoga incorporates physical postures, stretching and focusing on the breath, bringing peace and balance to the system. 
  • Massage Therapy
    • The power of massage therapy can be felt both in the long and short term. In the moment, massage does wonders to reduce stress and induce relaxation. After several sessions, massage can also help with chronic pain and circulatory issues and it improves symptoms of depression and anxiety. 
  • Art Therapy
    • Art therapy allows for alternative routes of expression and can be incredibly helpful for those in recovery to communicate and explore alternative perspectives. 
  • 12-Step Programs
    • Incorporating the spiritual elements of 12-step groups into our recovery process can be incredibly powerful for some clients. While we also offer non-12-step treatment, some clients benefit from the language and structure offered by the 12 steps. 

Holistic Practices You Can Strengthen Now

You don’t have to wait to begin accessing and caring for your holistic being. There are things you can do right now to care for yourself.

Targeting Physical Health

  • Exercise
    • Thoughtfully moving your body in ways that feel good is a vital part of your holistic care. Exercise is not simply a job we do or a task we must complete. The goal is not solely centered around cardio, strength building or even flexibility. There is a myriad of ways to move your body, each of which offers a unique benefit of restoration to at least one part of your being, which in turn allows holistic growth. 
    • Exercise will make your body release stress-reducing and mood-promoting endorphins before and after your workout. Because of this, exercise has proven a potent corrective to anxiety, stress and depression. Targeting at least twenty to thirty minutes of daily exercise is a good place to start.
  • Sleep
    • Ensuring quality sleep is an important (and easy) thing that you can do to target your physical health. Research suggests that about 7-8 hours of sleep a night is required for most adults.

Targeting Emotional Health

Being emotionally healthy means being willing to face your feelings. It doesn’t mean always being happy. Being happy all the time isn’t required to have a good, healthy life. 

An emotionally healthy person doesn’t avoid their feelings. They don’t turn to substances to numb them. Instead, they’re aware of their feelings. They can deal with positive emotions, negative ones and anything in between.

Emotional health components include:

  • An individual’s ability to manage their feelings
  • An individual’s total psychological well-being
  • How an individual feels about themselves
  • Being able to develop positive coping skills
  • Utilizing positive coping skills
  • The quality of interpersonal relationships

Targeting Spiritual Health

At all Promises Behavioral Health centers, professionals understand that having a sense of meaning and purpose in one’s life can be exceptionally valuable to those in recovery. Spirituality often represents a renewed faith in self for individuals who have battled substance abuse disorders, prioritized substances above all else and fell prey to despair, isolation and shame. For this reason, our treatment centers blend spirituality into recovery and provide holistic treatments, aiming to transform clients’ lives for the better. 

Mind-Body Healing at Promises Behavioral Health

There isn’t a single faceted approach, a one-step answer or an easy way out of being human. That goes for the parts of us that are harder to face when we need recovery as well. You can face them, though. And you’ll start by looking at your whole self and committing to your future with your whole heart. 

No matter what brings you to a space where you feel ready to approach a new way of living, all parts of you are central to getting there. So many of the challenges you’ve endured have furthered addiction’s foothold in your life. Each facet of your being will be a part of the relationship you build with your recovery. 

Throughout each program offered at a Promises Behavioral Health facility, we implement techniques proven to harness the mind-body connection in addiction treatment for whole-person wellness. Reach out to us today at 888-969-8405 to learn more about the programs we offer near you and how we can help you discover and harness healing in every part of your life.