top of page

A Holistic Approach to Addiction: Healing Chemical Dependencies and Their Underlying Causes

Pam Hughes, Clinical Director at New Directions for Women


Providing holistic options to the medical disease of addiction is a nod to the root cause of why people turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. The holistic way of healing women from addiction is to protect all areas of their wellness: body, mind, and most importantly, spirit. Some people are attempting to numb the pain of physical problems such as chronic back pain. Others are numbing the emotional pain of loneliness, anxiousness or any underlying mental health issues. Still others might feel spiritually devoid, and feel their lives lack meaning or purpose until they “normalize” with substances. Many experience a combination of these three. A main belief behind holistic medicine is that the three components of physical, emotional and spiritual health are interconnected. These include services like experiential therapies, yoga, mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, aquatic therapy, gardening, physical exercise, psychodrama and art, in addition to individual and group therapies.


The practice of yoga has four areas that can help those who are struggling from addiction: breathing, flow, restoration and meditation. >> The breathing exercises in yoga not only help to get more oxygen into the body to promote healing, they also help people to feel more “centered” and “in control.” >> Practicing a series of yoga poses, such as a salutation flow, can help an addict feel more connected with their lives, and can help them begin and end each day with a sense of purpose and connectedness with themselves and their own bodies. >> Having this sense of connection makes the addict more willing and likely to take better care of themselves and resist temptations to abuse their bodies with drugs. By performing restorative poses in yoga, the addict stretches out the tensions from stress that they carry with them in their bodies. This can help them to relax from stress. >> Finally, yoga also features meditations with many of its poses that can help improve a sense of wellbeing and purpose. When combined with other therapies such as counseling, support groups and healthy nutrition, yoga can be very beneficial in helping almost anyone beat their addiction to alcohol, drugs or other harmful habits in a safe, natural way that aids in the healing process.

Auricular (Ear) Acupuncture

The treatment includes stimulation of five exact points in the outer part of each ear; needles are left in place for at least half an hour. These points correspond to various parts of the body, including the kidneys, lung and liver, which tend to be weakened over time by drug use. After a session, cravings for the patient’s drug of choice are lessened.

Physical Exercise

While some women may not always be eager to go to the gym or join in a game of organized sports, we encourage participation in less strenuous exercises that are available to everyone, including walking. These are activities with low physical impact but high mental and emotional returns. Taking a walk with a therapist or a peer offers the perfect opportunity for a woman to open up about any struggles or issues she may not have addressed. Keeping up this health practice after therapy ends will ensure that these stress-relieving measures help patients maintain sobriety in their new healthier lifestyle.

Pam Hughes, LMFT, is clinical director at nonprofit New Directions for Women, a CARFaccredited, exclusively female, private drug and alcohol rehab center located in Orange County, California. Pamela has a passion for guiding others to a healthy emotional life.

bottom of page