Tag Archive: alternative treatment methods

  1. Man’s Best Friend: Animal-Assisted Therapy

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    Animal-Assisted TherapyAnimal-assisted therapy has progressed well beyond the remarkable world of seeing-eye dogs. Horses, dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals have been enlisted to help mobility-impaired individuals, to sense the onset of illnesses through their enhanced olfactory senses, and now to aid individuals who are suffering from depression or anxiety, or any of the addiction maladies that often accompany those psychological disorders. If you are experiencing a medical problem in one of these spectra and other therapies have been ineffective, you should consider the benefits that a therapy animal can bring.

    Animal-Assisted Therapy for Addiction Recovery

    Clinical researchers have concluded that in many cases, humans are able to form an emotional bond with an animal more quickly than they can with other humans. Studies have also revealed that those emotional bonds can help reduce a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. These interactions can also alleviate anger and anxiety while improving social interactions. Animals are non-judgmental and display unconditional affection when they are treated properly. Interactions with larger animals, such as horses, also places individuals in an outdoor setting that can further enhance their moods and improve self-esteem.

    Drug addicts and alcoholics who are struggling with recovery can benefit from animal-assisted therapy by teaching them to reach outside of themselves to care for another living being and to accept responsibility for that care. As a recovering addict’s relationship with a therapy animal grows, his own self-confidence will grow, allowing him to distance himself from the weaknesses that led to his addiction. This further empowers a recovering addict to stay with his pursuit of a sober lifestyle.

    Seeking Animal-Assisted Therapy

    Therapists who incorporate animal-assisted therapy into their treatment programs will start slowly to confirm that an individual is capable of handling the responsibility for animal care and that he can develop a bond with a particular animal. Trainers and handlers will observe the interactions for at least the first several meetings. As the bond begins to develop, the trainer will allow his patient and the animal to spend greater amounts of time together. This process will continue simultaneously with other group and individual therapy that a person might be receiving. As with other addiction recovery treatments, animal-assisted therapy is not a panacea, but is instead one of several tools that a therapist will use to help a addict break his connection to drugs or alcohol.

    No specific protocol has been established for the incorporation of animal-assisted therapy into a general rehab program. An addict who is interested in animal-assisted therapy will need to ask about that therapy, and he may need to write his own protocol in conjunction with his counselors to integrate animal-assisted therapy into the bigger picture of his recovery. Addiction counselors who are more progressive or aggressive will generally be more amenable to suggestions for alternative therapies like this.


    For more information about using animal-assisted therapy in your drug addiction or alcoholism rehab program, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We will discuss all available options with you and provide suggestions for specific animal-assisted therapy programs that can help you.

  2. Martial Arts and Mastering Recovery

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    Martial Arts and Mastering RecoveryAddiction recovery counselors almost universally recommend that recovering addicts and alcoholics adopt a physical exercise program to assist in their attempts to beat addiction. Exercise programs that combine mental and physical training, such as yoga and martial arts, are well-suited for this purpose. Martial arts, in particular, will appeal to individuals who are interested in more immediate and faster-paced physical activity.

    Martial Arts and Mastering Recovery

    Multiple forms of martial arts are available to fit all levels and abilities. Recovery programs have incorporated karate, kung fu, muay thai, tae kwon do, and aikido for individuals who want a more aggressive program, and tai chi for more meditative individuals. When pursued regularly, each of these programs will help recovering addicts and alcoholics to regain their physical strength, improve their hand-eye coordination, and enhance their flexibility and balance, all while giving them the tools they may need to handle stresses in their lives that would otherwise drive them back to drinking or drugs.

    Instilling discipline is the common thread that runs through all martial arts programs. Individuals who are fighting addictions are often able to survive the physical withdrawal pains that they experience when they are going through detox, but later fall prey to the psychological addictive urges that make drugs and alcohol seem like the only option that is available to them when events in their lives turn sour. The mental discipline skills that are part of martial arts training increase an addict’s awareness of these subconscious urges, which will help him or her to reject those urges.

    Martial Arts and Mastering Yourself

    Martial arts will also instill a greater sense of confidence and self-esteem, both of which might be long lost in many recovering addicts and alcoholics. Addiction attacks an individual’s sense of self. Recovering addicts who experience relapses will suffer from a reduced self-esteem and guilt over their self-perceived inability to stay away from drugs or alcohol. Rebuilding that self-esteem and rejecting guilt feelings are important elements of preventing further relapses. The martial arts learning curve is steep and fast, and many practitioners find that the early stages of their progression through the martial arts ranks can quickly build their confidence in their abilities, not just in martial arts, but also in other aspects of their lives.

    A regular program of martial arts training will also alleviate the sometimes crushing sense of boredom that recovering addicts and alcoholics experience in their initial recovery stages. Those individuals can find themselves at a loss for options to fill their time or to entertain themselves away from drugs and alcohol, and they frequently go back to those substances for no  reason other than having nothing better to do. Martial arts will fill that void and refocus their energy into a more positive course of activities.


    Addiction recovery centers, YMCA’s and local martial arts training schools are available in most metropolitan areas. Recovering addicts who are interested in a martial arts program should first check with their physicians to confirm that they are physically capable of handling the initial demands of a martial arts program and for recommendations on how much physical activity their bodies can handle in their early recovery phases.

    For more suggestions on using martial arts to enhance your recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052.

Sustain Recovery changed my life in a way I never considered remotely possible. I arrived in a place where I knew nobody. Sustain Recovery gave me tools so that I never had to be alone again. I learned how to live like an adult and have genuine relationships with other human beings. I gained a sense of self respect, love, and pride from the challenges I was given by staff. I was able to work through the recent loss of my father and I achieved my goal of not taking any psychiatric medication.
I learned that life is an endless balancing act. I have to continually work on myself and my relationships with the people in my life. The staff at Sustain Recovery are all incredibly experienced and spiritual. They were available to me whether I wanted their help or not. Through their efforts and experience, I experienced the inner workings of having an intimate, loving relationship with a loving creator.
Sustain Recovery is “home” for me. I discovered a loving, caring family that helped launch me to a place I would have never dreamed and, if I would have dreamed it, I would never have believed I would be able to accomplish it.

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