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Alternative Treatment

What Is Alternative Treatment?

Alternative treatment programs are new ways in which to approach addiction recovery. They fall under the category of alternative medicine, as they are newer and lack serious clinical evidence. Alternative treatments tend to be more experimental than traditional treatment options. These traditional options being medical detox, mental health counseling, and group/individual meetings.

Although alternative methods are not as clinically proven as traditional treatment plans, they still have proven to be very beneficial in the treatment of addiction. These programs are usually complementary to standard treatment programs, as there is not yet enough evidence for them to be used as a primary or solitary form of treatment. However, many patients have reported great success from using one of these treatment methods in addition to standard treatment.

Statistics are limited on the efficacy of some of these therapies, but based on good anecdotal results with patients, many treatment centers are adding some or all of these as options. Many of the treatment centers in Massachusetts are now offering these therapies as options to their patients.

What are the Benefits of Alternative Treatment?

While standard treatments show great benefit and patients are usually willing to participate in these programs, traditional methods are not for everyone.

Alternative treatment help to keep patients engaged in treatment by breaking up the usual routine. Due to their nature, they can engage addicts in ways traditional treatments cannot. They can help patients to become enthused about the treatment process again if standards programs have not worked for them in the past.

In some cases, alternative treatments show results where other treatments have not worked. For example, experiments with controlled doses of certain hallucinogenic substances have shown promising results in veterans with PTSD who have addiction issues. While this particular treatment is not available in Massachusetts, there are many others that are.

Types of Alternative Treatment

Art Therapy

Art therapy can take a wide range of forms – painting, drawing, sculpting, and even tending to a garden. Music therapy can also fall under this general heading. Some examples of music therapy are learning to sing, playing an instrument or even just actively listening to music and commenting on it afterwards.

These therapies help the addict step outside of themselves temporarily and put them at ease, giving them a chance to calmly reflect and organize their thoughts. Gradually building skill also gradually builds self-confidence and self-esteem. These therapies both help to prevent relapse and also help to reduce negative emotions such as anger and stress.

Mindfulness / Meditation Treatment

The use of meditation and mindfulness is one of the most well-researched and effective complementary therapies. Mindfulness training helps addicts to control their thoughts and to not be influenced by negative emotions.

This form of alternative therapy is almost not really an alternative anymore, since it is so commonly recommended by so many programs. The best thing about it is that it can be done in almost any setting and requires no special equipment at all. Given its accessibility, it is an alternative therapy that is worth trying for just about all addicts in recovery.


Biofeedback employs the EEG machines that are used in hospitals to monitor brain activity as well as other types of electrical signals used in the body. It is possible to actually alter brain waves so that patients can self-correct their own neurological issues, for example increasing neural arousal to combat the symptoms of depression, or lowering neural arousal if they are experiencing anxiety.

Since addictions are frequently tied to mental health disorders (a condition known as a “dual diagnosis”), the use of biofeedback to treat these underlying disorders may well also help addicts if their substance use is centered on self-medication.

Pet Therapy

With pet therapy, an addict improves self-esteem and learns to think outside of themselves by caring for an animal of some sort. It can be a dog, cat or other pet that lives with them. It can also be an animal that they visit on a regular basis. For example, equine therapy has proven to be very successful with a number of patients. Patients visit a horse who is kept at a stable and help to care for them.

Studies have also found a variety of positive health effects in caring for animals, such as reduction of blood pressure and even reduction of the symptoms of certain illnesses.

Principles of Effective Alternative Treatment

An effective treatment program has to be suited to the individual needs of the patient. This is why treatment from a certified facility is crucial. Patients will not only develop the standard program of care that works best for them, but can also explore the many alternatives and complementary therapies that Massachusetts facilities have to offer.