Holistic Rehab Defined

Holistic is defined and characterized by the treatment of a whole person, taking into account all factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. Rehab is defined as a course of treatment for drug or alcohol dependence. When looking at these two definitions together, we come up with what holistic rehab is all about. Holistic rehab is a treatment option that offers individualized and unique programs that are very different from the more traditional ideals of many rehab centers. The goal is to achieve sobriety and overall wellness to by focusing on healing not only the mind, but body and spirit as well – healing the whole person, not just the symptoms of the addiction.

Holistic, Historically

Those who practice holistic health have a variety of approaches when it comes to healing, but they all share a basic underlying theme: healing is the most beneficial when you focus on the person as a whole, rather than on specific bits and pieces of an illness. Even as far back as the 4th century B.C. Socrates stated, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”.

The practices and theories of holistic health can be traced back thousands of years and has ancient roots in the medical community. There are two exceptionally well documented ancient holistic health traditions: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: While TCM originated almost 5,000 years ago, it has continued to evolve with the times into a defined system of diagnostic and treatment methods that are still in practice even today. TCM believed the human body to be a small universe of interconnected system, much like our solar system — a mix of physical elements and underlying energy with the most prominent energies being “qi” (life force) and “shen” (spirit).

Ayurveda: Ayurveda is an ancient medical tradition of India and dates back as far as 6th century B.C. This practice utilizes a system of eight treatment disciplines and is made up of several parts:

  • Five great elements of the universe
  • Seven primary constituent elements of the body
  • Three “doshas” (biological energies)

Ayurvedic practitioners encourage patients to find balance and moderation in their lives.

While these were the most highly documented traditions, there were others that were also very popular throughout history and a variety of cultures:

Herbal Medicine: Herbal medicine has been utilized by indigenous people all over the world and throughout the course of history. This practice uses the medicinal properties of plants in the healing process. Herbal medicine is a crucial element of both TCM and Ayurveda.

Western Herbalism: Also focused on the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, Western herbalism began in ancient Greece and Rome before spreading to the rest of Europe and North and South America.

As the years progressed, physicians began to focus less on healthy lifestyle choices, environmental factors or emotional well-being when compiling a diagnosis. The focus was almost entirely on symptoms and syndromes of their patients and patients were actually encouraged to allow the medicine to “fix the issue” rather than participating in their own health care.

We know now what the limitations of this approach are and as a result, we are staring down the barrel of overwhelming obesity rates, chronic disease, poor diet and exercise, epidemic levels of stress and almost everyone knows someone who suffers from depression or anxiety.

Holistic Rehab Today

Armed with the knowledge of our past mistakes, the need for a holistic health approach today and for the future has never been greater. Society is demanding alternatives to medicine and looking for better, more holistic approaches for their wellness. There are a wide range of benefits to choosing a holistic approach instead of a more traditional recovery. Here are some of the differences to consider between holistic and conventional treatment.

Primary Care Objective

  • Holistic: Promotes optimal health to prevent and treat disease
  • Conventional: Cures or mitigates disease

Method of Care

  • Holistic: Empowers patients to heal themselves by facilitating lifestyle changes and identifying causes of their disease
  • Conventional: Focuses on the elimination of physical symptoms


  • Holistic: Evaluate the person as a whole
  • Conventional: Evaluate the body with physical examination and lab data

Treatment Options

  • Holistic: Healing of the body mind and spirit through diet, exercise, relationship counseling and adjusting behavior or attitude
  • Conventional: Drugs or surgery

There are many types of rehabilitation options. It is best to research all of your options before making a decision on which option is best for you. With any form of rehabilitation, you have the option of inpatient and outpatient treatment which will vary in length of time, cost and commitment during the week.