Wellness programs are an essential part of substance abuse treatment as they contribute to overall health, mental, and emotional well-being. The program should also inspire confidence and positivity – two tools necessary to sustain long-term abstinence.

Moreover, the benefits of incorporating nutrition, exercise, and spirituality into an addiction treatment plan cannot be underestimated. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stresses that ongoing improvement in health and wellness is critical for maintaining progress during addiction recovery.

Simply put, when the mind and body are robust and healthy, cravings are diminished, and therefore, so is the desire to use alcohol or drugs. This fact is true for every level of care, including both inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment.

A wellness program is designed to address the specific needs of the individual, such as a personal history of substance abuse, mental illness, and physical health problems.

Steps to Wellness During Treatment

#1 – Evaluation by a health care provider to identify wellness needs.

Research has shown that customized treatment programs in rehab improve outcomes, and help people stay engaged in their recovery.

During the initial assessment, information about the patient is gathered, such as substance use patterns, family medical history, and details about mental and physical health conditions.

This information includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Physical health problems and injuries, specifically those affected by drug or alcohol use
  • Psychological illnesses that often co-exist with substance abuse
  • Severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms
  • Nutritional deficiencies, vital signs, and weight loss/gain

Using this information, the health provider can develop a plan based on the patient’s needs, including nutritional guidance, exercise, meditation, yoga, and other activities that foster mental and physical wellness

#2 – Identify nutritional requirements.

Health providers use assessment information, tests, and personal expertise about the effects of addiction to identify nutritional deficiencies or problems with diet. All of this information is considered during the development of the wellness program.

General diet and nutritional needs borne of substance abuse include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Eating on a set schedule while avoiding snacking or skipping meals
  • Eating primarily low-fat foods
  • Eating a diet that contains sufficient protein, complex carbs, and fiber
  • Increasing use of vitamins and minerals, such as A, B, C, and E vitamins and minerals such as potassium, calcium, and zinc

Once nutritional needs are established, a nutritionist designs a meal plan to be followed throughout treatment.

#3 – Identify exercise requirements.

Exercise is extremely beneficial during treatment, both to help manage withdrawal symptoms and improve general health and wellness.  Research has shown that exercise has a positive impact on mental, emotional, and physical well-being, and can reduce anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental illness.

A variety of exercises and activities are used to foster physical and mental wellness during substance abuse treatment. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Yoga
  • Cardio (running, biking, walking)
  • Weightlifting
  • Cross training
  • Swimming
  • Aerobics

By engaging in different types of exercise, the individual will improve their motivation and ultimately, overall wellness.

Note: If exercise is not appropriate, physical therapy or other wellness disciplines may offer similar benefits.

#4 – Incorporate holistic activities.

Most current treatment programs also use alternative, holistic practices to help improve the patient’s mental and physical well-being and mind-body connection.  These may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Gardening therapy

These practices complement formal therapy and counseling and can offer wellness benefits by increasing confidence, self-esteem, and promoting a deep connection to one’s inner self and others.

#5 – Design a wellness plan to incorporate into treatment.

These elements and activities are coordinated and integrated into the treatment program by several cooperating specialists to develop a wellness plan.

Through collaboration and the organization of these elements of wellness, providers and patients can remain focused on treatment goals and ensure that milestones are reached.

Also, necessary adjustments to the plan can be identified and implemented, as individual needs change and abstinence is sustained.

Integrating a wellness plan into substance abuse treatment requires planning and coordination on the part of many health providers and specialists.

When the elements of a wellness program compliment standard components of treatment, patients can benefit from increased motivation and achieve the self-confidence needed to maintain sobriety after formal addiction treatment has ended.

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