Addiction Recovery: Using Alternative Therapies When Traditional Methods Fall Short

by guest contributor Kimberly Hayes

Not everyone responds to substance abuse treatment the same way. Sometimes, an alternative approach is needed in order to truly set your life on the right track. There are many different types of treatment and many more techniques that can help you mold your recovery into a sustainable way of life. But before you begin, it’s important to know your limits. If you’re physically unable to fully participate in any of these treatments, speak with your mentor or therapist about other ways to perpetuate your journey of healing and self-discovery.

Emotional freedom techniques (EFT)

EFT, or tapping, is a form of therapy that targets pressure points throughout the body. During an EFT session, you will tap a part of the body suggested by your therapist that corresponds to an acupressure point. EFT can be summed up as an energy psychology therapy that helps the body achieve balance.

Mindfulness-based therapies

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy refers to any number of treatments that encourage you to reconnect with your body and mind and learn to respond to stress as opposed to react to it. When you were using, you did so ostensibly as a way to escape stress. When you engage in yoga, guided meditation, or other awareness techniques, you learn to accept stress as part of your daily life.

Equine/animal therapy

Horses and other animals have been used successfully to help people reclaim self-confidence. During an equine therapy session, you will participate in activities that provide care for the animal or structured events that intertwine with your therapy. Your therapist will use the relationship you develop with the animal to help you identify negative patterns within yourself that fuel addiction. There are four primary types of equine therapy. As identified by, these are therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, equine facilitated learning, and equine facilitated psychotherapy, the latter of which is most common in addiction treatment.

Art therapy

Art therapy is an experiential therapy that allows you to tap into your creative side to explore latent issues relating to your addiction and recovery.

 Adventure therapy

Adventure therapy is exactly what its name suggests: The practice of exploring your addiction through adventure and physical activities. You might, for instance, engage in a ropes course, group camping, or outdoor games. Your therapist will provide challenges and can use your responses to define a parallel between the activity and personality traits that drive your addiction. But even if you don’t have the funds to invest in guided adventure therapy, you can still use the outdoors to your advantage.


This is a form of therapy that is completed in-office and entails the use of monitoring equipment to register your heart rate or brain’s responses to stimuli. Using biofeedback or neurofeedback can help you identify stress triggers so that you can learn to self-regulate your emotional responses to negative input. Individually or combined, these therapies can make you more aware of yourself and therefore more able to manage stress and increase your ability to relax without chemical intervention.

Self-driven therapy

While having an impartial party guide you toward recovery is vital to your success, no one knows you better than yourself. Self-driven therapy isn’t a formal means to recovery but doing things you love, such as reading, snuggling with your pets, or volunteering within your community, can help you avert anxiety, avoid negative situations, and provide you with an always-available way to mitigate stress.

Don’t watch your sobriety slip away. Whether you complete an in-house treatment program or respond best to being in the outdoors, make your treatment your top priority. It takes hard work and dedication, but it’s all worth the fight. Everything is at stake, and you, and your family, can’t afford for you to lose this battle.

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