Addiction treatment requires individualized care in order to be successful. The type of substance abused, duration of use, and other individual factors make the recovery experience unique and subsequently, not all treatment methods are equally effective across the board. For most, addiction treatment is most effective when it focuses on both the physical experience as well as the mental and emotional needs of an individual. Treatment that addresses multiple facets of a person’s life tends to be more effective in reducing the risk of relapse and improving the recovery experience.
Treating the Whole Person
Many treatment programs have evolved to use a more holistic approach in addiction recovery. Treating the whole person is vital to success in recovery and continued sobriety following completion of a dual-diagnosis treatment program. Providing clients with the tools to support a sober lifestyle and the ability to effectively navigate the pitfalls they may inevitably face following treatment improves rates of success and overall quality of life.
Biofeedback therapy is a popularly emerging form of treatment used in addressing addiction. While it is not an effective stand-alone treatment option, it does help enhance the recovery experience by exploring an individual’s responses to stimuli and developing ways to effectively respond to stress that are unique to their needs. Rather than providing a blanket approach to those in substance abuse treatment, biofeedback therapy examines the distinct needs of clients and helps them develop strategies for addressing the stressors they will need to manage.
What is Biofeedback Therapy?
Biofeedback therapy is an approach to treatment that helps clients develop better control over bodily processes that are normally involuntary. By learning how to maintain some level of control, biofeedback therapy has proven effective in helping people manage conditions such as high blood pressure, migraines, muscle tension, and chronic pain.
There are numerous methods of biofeedback therapy that may be used in treatment. The most common are:
- Electromyography (EMG) biofeedback: measures muscle tension
- Thermal or temperature biofeedback: measures body temperature
- Electroencephalography: measures brain wave activity
In treatment, electrodes are attached to a person’s skin which then sends information to a monitor. Reactions can then be observed in real time. Through trial and error, the therapist and the client work together to identify the activities and techniques that have the most profound impact on a person’s state of being. Over time, a person learns what they respond to and can engage in practices that help them achieve a sense of centeredness without the use of monitoring tools. This may include breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and other mental exercises to promote relaxation and positive reactions.
Sessions of biofeedback therapy typically last less than an hour and results vary from person to person. In some cases, a person may begin to notice differences in their functioning within 8 to 10 sessions. In other instances, a person may need more than 20 to achieve the same outcomes. This is largely dependent on the condition that biofeedback therapy is being used to address.
In addition to formal sessions, clients will regularly engage in relaxation activities for short periods of time every day. This allows them to see how the practices can work in their everyday lives and provides structure.
Biofeedback Therapy and Addiction
Biofeedback therapy focuses on helping clients achieve a sense of relaxation and focus. For those in addiction recovery, substance abuse can often cause a person to experience distressing mental and physical side effects that may be difficult to control. Involuntary reactions to using drugs or alcohol and withdrawal symptoms can make a person feel more distressed and worsen their state of being. Using biofeedback therapy to track the subconscious reactions the body has to physical or emotional tension can help a person gain insight their own needs in recovery.
Biofeedback therapy is especially beneficial in monitoring withdrawal symptoms. There are several exercises that are used with biofeedback therapy to effectively address conditions such as anxiety, depression, and restlessness. These include:
- Mindfulness meditation: This practice encourages a person to actively acknowledge and let go of negative thoughts and focus on peaceful thoughts instead
- Progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise focuses on progressively releasing tension throughout the body
- Guided imagery: Patients are guided through positive scenarios and imagery to relax the mind and body
Using this form of therapy in conjunction with traditional treatment methods can improve recovery outcomes. Prolonged use of drugs and alcohol can negatively impact the way the brain and body react to stimuli. Biofeedback therapy helps guide a person back to normal levels of functioning and seeks to restore normal brainwave patterns. This form of therapy can help those in recovery cope more easily with the triggers that may induce relapse, helping them avoid it completely instead.
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