Taking the first step towards addiction treatment is not easy, and most often, the family would have organized a family intervention. However, some addicts choose to attend treatment without an intervention. Searching for a drug and alcohol treatment program can be overwhelming, considering the multitude of treatment options available. However, any kind of treatment or counseling when it is tailored to you as an individual is ideal. It is important that you find a place that feels like a good fit, and somewhere that motivates your recovery. There are choices to make between traditional and alternative approaches to rehabilitation.

Typically, traditional addiction treatment programs often adhere to 12-step methods, which is effective, but not for everyone. Many traditional approaches utilize group therapy in combination with individual therapy, but most programs are not tailored to the needs of the addict. Most alternative drug and alcohol treatment programs offer individualized rehab for those seeking a different experience than that of a 12-step program. As substance abuse treatment resources evolve, it is clear there should not be a one size fits all. There are various things that affect the nature of addiction, such as underlying worries, dependence, lifestyle, substance abuse history, environment, mental health, and specific substances.

DRS femme2A Get help for veterans

Alternative drug rehabilitation usually provides individualized treatment and recognizes the need for specialized accommodations. Most alternative treatment centers cater to specific groups and offer benefits to substance abuse treatment that a traditional rehab often cannot. For example, there are women-only treatment programs, which understand the unique circumstances of women struggling with addiction. Many women who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have experienced trauma or abuse at the hands of men, which does impact treatment results if it is a co-ed facility.

Additionally, there are men-only treatment centers, and as women, some men are more comfortable opening up their addiction with other men. Overall, new treatment methods are being researched constantly, and addiction treatment options are always evolving. Finding the right method of rehabilitation is crucial, especially for problems like alcohol addiction. The average alcoholic attends 12-step treatment or therapy at least once. Many alcoholics find success with these programs, but others choose alternative methods.

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common problems in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 86.3% of people aged 18 or older reported that they had consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Also, 26.45% of people aged 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. In 2018, approximately 14.4 million adults had an alcohol use disorder, which was also similar in 2019. An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related caused annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

When is Alternative Substance Abuse Treatment the Best Option?

Alternatives substance abuse treatment programs are usually the better option when someone has attempted traditional approaches with no success or desire to pursue sobriety. Twelve-step programs are the most common form of traditional rehabilitation and are effective for many people, but not everyone. It is important when searching for treatment centers that you are aware of your options. Alternative programs also offer spiritual and religious-based services, provide empowerment and personal growth, and address underlying issues connected to the addiction. Also, alternative programs are non-secular and provide alternatives to group and individual therapy to treat addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regarding how effective is drug addiction treatment, it says, "in addition to stopping drug abuse, the goal of treatment is to return people to productive functioning in the family, workplace, and community"(main paragraph). The average person who gets into treatment and remains in the program stop using drugs, decrease criminal activity, improve their occupational, social, and psychological functioning. When considering alternatives to traditional drug rehabilitation, it is important to have an understanding of different viewpoints. Most traditional substance abuse treatment views addiction as a disease, whereas non-traditional or alternative approaches do not view addiction as a disease.

Additionally, it would be best to consider your personality type and what is most important to you. There are treatment options that require group work and being connected with other people frequently. Other forms of rehabilitation are more individualized, providing varying methodologies of counseling, therapy, and rehabilitation. Alternative programs may focus on different aspects of the healing process, such as the physical, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing of the individual. Overall, there are various evidence-based approaches for treating addiction, which also incorporates a variety of other approaches.

According to an article published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment titled The effectiveness of treatment for substance abuse: Reason for optimism, in the abstract, it says—"hope is also provided that by evidence that even relatively brief treatment can be substantially more effective than none at all. Recent evidence also supports the importance of matching clients to alternative treatment strategies". According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among people aged 12 or older in 2019, 1.5% or 4.2 million people received any substance use treatment in 2018.

Additionally, 2.1 million people aged 12 or older received help from a self-help group, 1.7 million received treatment in an outpatient center, while one million people received treatment in an inpatient program. Among the 18.9 million people aged 12 or older in 2019 who had a substance use disorder and did not receive treatment, 95.7% did not fee that they needed treatment. Some substance abuse treatment is better than none, and there are ways to select the type of rehabilitation needed. Typically, an addiction assessment is a good place to begin, and this could be done over the phone or in-person. The purpose of an assessment is to determine the extent of addiction and what treatment options are the most effective for your situation.

How Does Alternative Drug Rehab Operate?

Most alternative drug treatment options are effective when used to supplement a traditional drug rehab program. However, this is not always the case because every program varies in its approach and effectiveness. Typically, the rehabilitation center should meet the needs of the addict, and an addiction assessment can usually best determine this. Alternative drug rehabilitation programs operate in different ways, and there are a variety of options, and many alternative options are part of a broader range of rehabilitation.

For example, biofeedback is a form of therapy helping recovering addicts gain control over their mind and body. The therapy helps addicts understand their involuntary functions, which helps treatment professionals create a rehabilitation plan tailored to their specific needs. Biofeedback tracks how the body is unconsciously reacting to physical and emotional tension. The process tracks a person breathing rate, heart rate, skin temperature, blood pressure, sweating, and muscle contractions. The machine records the bodily functions and displays them back to the recovering addict.

Holistic drug treatment methods cover a broad range of approaches and typically refers to a whole person approach to substance use treatment. Alternative drug rehab programs that incorporate holistic techniques utilize an integrates physical, mental, and spiritual model to build out a comprehensive treatment process. For example, this could include herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, biofeedback, or neurofeedback (a branch of biofeedback focusing on brain activity), yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Holistic approaches are often used to augment standard approaches, such as managing withdrawal symptoms, stress, helping with spiritual grounding, and improving physical health.

Multiple Approaches Used to Treat Addiction

When considering alternative drug rehabilitation, it is important to understand that there are usually multiple approaches used. Well-rounded rehabilitation is crucial, and because it manages all aspects of the addiction. Some common alternative approaches include Emotional Freedom Techniques, which are referred to as tapping. The process involves using the tip of your fingers to tap on a sequence of points on the body. These are usually acupressure points or meridians, and it helps balance the person and frees up energy within the body. Typically, a technique like this is incorporated with yoga and mindfulness-based therapies.

Yoga and mindfulness therapy brings a spiritual element to treatment. Someone struggling with addiction becomes overwhelmed by their emotions and surroundings. Yoga helps center an individual so they can focus on the treatment process. The therapy helps a person increase awareness and connect back with yourself and learn how to respond to stressors of life. Many recovering addicts utilize yoga and meditation as part of a daily routine. Finding balance and focus is crucial while recovering from addiction, which is why art therapy is also part of some programs.

Art therapy involves many mediums, such as paint, clay, pens, beads, or woodworking. The process of creating art is therapeutic and relaxing. Also, the content of art could be explored with a counselor and may uncover and heal emotional wounds. Along with art, many addicts feel a connection with animals, such as what is provided through equine-assisted therapy. The patient works with a substance use counselor and an equine therapist, and it does not matter if the person cannot ride a horse. The patient engages in activities related to the caretaking of the horse and activities that address the addiction.

Taking care of an animal can foster feelings of self-competence and allows the individual to explore deeper emotional issues. Many interactions a person has with an animal mirror how they related to the person and others. Animal therapy often leads to programs that offer adventure-based therapy, which is a common form of alternative treatment used in the United States. Adolescents, especially, feel more motivated to participate in this form of therapy, and it helps the person self-reflect and work through addiction in a unique way. Activities could include hiking, camping, rock climbing, canoeing, and being out in the wilderness.

Patients of adventure-based therapy learn how to react to stressful situations and get real-time feedback. The process helps patients effectively respond to life challenges in healthy ways while gaining insight into how coping skills are effective. Adventure-based therapy and wilderness therapy are similar and incorporate a variety of treatment methodologies to help addicts and their families.

How Does SMART Recovery Compart to Traditional Substance Use Treatment?

SMART Recovery or Self-Management and Recovery Training is a peer support program for people with addictions. The program teaches someone how to control their addictive behavior by focusing on the underlying thoughts and feelings. People who participate in this program learn skills to manage cravings and urges to use drugs over the long-term. According to an article published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors titled Systematic review of SMART Recovery: Outcomes, process variables and implications for research, within the abstract it says—"Clinical guidelines recommend Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) and 12-step models of mutual aid as important sources of long-term support for addiction recovery".

SMART is different from traditional approaches like 12-step models because it considers itself a self-empowering program. The people administering the SMART programs consider specific behaviors and help find problems that need the most attention. Someone taking part in SMAR recovery is taught self-reliance to control their addiction while working with cognitive-behavioral and motivational enhancement therapies. The program details a 4-point program that provides tips and exercises to maintain a sober life. It is not a step program like the 12-step model, and participants tackle a specific point in any order based on their needs.

Per the SMART Recovery website, the 4-point program involves building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, while also living a balanced life. Overall, there are similarities and differences between traditional substance abuse treatment. Recovering addicts are working through a series of assignments to beat their addiction. The difference is how each program defines addiction. SMART programs do not label participants as addicts or recognize addiction as a disease. Participants also graduate from recovery and move forward with a healthy life and are not considered to be in recovery for the remainder of their days.

Common Terminology Surrounding Alternative Drug Rehab

Term Definition
Non-Traditional Substance Use Treatment generally are relatively new therapies incorporated with behavioral therapy. Non-traditional therapy is generally thought to aid in the treatment process by reducing stress and building confidence and communication skills.
Holistic Drug Rehabilitation are non-medical recovery methods to complement traditional therapies. The purpose of holistic rehabilitation is to bring the mind, body, and spirit into alignment.
Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based treatment option that provides activities to promote lifelong growth and development. Activities could include backpacking, climbing, hiking, canoeing, or camping.
Supplement and Nutrient Therapies is a process of treating nutrient deficiencies caused by substance abuse. The use of vitamins, minerals, and healthy eating is incorporated within the rehabilitation process; it improves physical and mental wellbeing.
Recovery Coaching these are coaches who support recovering addicts in pursuing their own goals. A coach offers the person tools and guidance needed to follow the path they have already chosen.
Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of stabilizing and calming the mind is a peaceful setting. The technique helps residents control what they are thinking about and eliminate distractions.
Relaxation Therapy is a process that helps residents relieve stress and improve their quality of sleep. During the therapy, the individual can focus on the mind and relax the body.
Creative Art Therapy is classified as a form of psychotherapy with artistic mediums. The process allows creative expression and helps patients resolve conflicts, reduce stress, boost self-esteem, and awareness.
SMART Recovery Self-Management and Recovery Training is a support program, similar but different from 12-step approaches. The process focuses on underlying thoughts and feelings, and participants learn ways to manage cravings.
Biochemical Restoration and Nutrition is a type of treatment that aims to repair biochemical imbalances that cause cravings, depression, anxiety, and unstable moods. The therapy revolves around proper nutrition and how it incorporates with treatment and recovery.


Marcel Gemme, DATS

Marcel Gemme, DATS


on December 21, 2021

More Information

Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.

Michael Leach, CCMA

Michael Leach, CCMA

Medically Reviewed

on December 21, 2021

More Information

Michael Leach is a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant, who has over 5 years of experience working in the field of addiction. He spent his career working under the board-certified Addictionologist Dr. Rohit Adi. His experience includes working with families during their loved one’s stay in treatment, helping those with substance abuse issues find treatment, and teaching life skills to patients in a recovery atmosphere. Though he has worked in many different areas of rehabilitation, the majority of his time was spent working one on one with patients who were actively withdrawing from drugs. Withdrawal and the fear of going through it is one biggest reason why an addict continues to use and can be the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process. His experience in the withdrawal atmosphere has taught him that regardless of what approach a person takes to get off drugs, there are always mental and emotional obstacles that need to be overcome. He believes having someone there to help a person through these obstacles can make all the difference during the withdrawal process.