Think about your best friend.
It is likely that a whole range of memories, feelings, and impressions come to mind.
Now imagine that someone asks you to describe that person–using only one word.
You could, perhaps, mention your friend’s race or ethnicity. But that is hardly a complete picture. Same issue with gender. Or with age.
Maybe you should go with a word that describes your friend’s personality. Something like bubbly. Or serious. Or introverted. Still pretty vague, huh?
So maybe you turn to other descriptors—something like rich, smart, sneaky, or funny. Or perhaps you should focus on a word that reveals something about what your friend values—kind, religious, generous, driven.
Clearly, you can’t possibly sum up everything you would want someone to know about your best friend using a single word. You need a full range of descriptive language to even begin to fill in a complete picture.
Sadly, this impossible task all too often mirrors what people experience when they need help with a health issue—including when they are struggling with a substance use disorder.
Rejecting the Reductive
If your doctor or your therapist has reduced you to a single defining feature—say, as a person with anxiety or an individual who is addicted to alcohol—they may be blind to crucial information about you. This reductive thinking can undermine the care you receive. If, for example, your substance use disorder is considered without reference to your ongoing anxiety (or vice-versa), the approaches to treatment may be incomplete and therefore ineffective at best or dangerous at worst.
Obviously, it is impossible for your therapist or other medical professional to acquire a truly complete understanding of your life. But that doesn’t mean you should let yourself be slotted into a category based on a single attribute or condition. Instead, you need to be sure that the person who is treating you is committed to a holistic approach in which they work to care for the whole person rather than just taking a one-size-fits-all approach.
Defining the Holistic Approach
Let’s return to our example above and imagine that you are battling a substance use disorder and also suffering from ongoing anxiety. Maybe you begin looking for a treatment center to address your substance use disorder. Meanwhile, you might be seeing a doctor who helps you manage your anxiety with medication.
That may sound just fine, but if the treatment center doesn’t know about your anxiety and the doctor doesn’t know about your substance use disorder, you and those treating you are not taking a holistic approach. And that can be dangerous.
For example, the doctor treating you for anxiety might make very different recommendations if they knew you had a substance use issue. Prescribing medication for those who struggle with addiction can have significant risks. If your doctor had access to a more complete picture of your situation, better options could be considered.
All of which is to say, a holistic approach to care is not limited to addressing a single issue. Holistic care involves finding the best treatment options for a given person based on a range of interwoven factors.
Key Factors to be Considered
Several things should always be taken into account when a medical professional is designing a personalized treatment plan for someone.
For example, a full consideration of a person’s mental and physical health takes into account family history (in other words, genetics) as well as individual biology. It takes into account physical and social environments of the person’s past, including whether the person dealt with any adverse childhood experiences (sometimes known as ACEs). A look at current home and work environments is also helpful, as is getting a clear sense of an individual’s habits when it comes to managing stress, eating, exercising, and sleeping. The strength and nature of a person’s relationships can also be revealing.
A look at that list makes it abundantly clear that defining someone as “a person with a substance use disorder” is in no way sufficient. To provide a firm foundation for lasting sobriety, a much richer sense of a person is an absolute necessity.
You Can Be Wholly Confident We Use a Holistic Approach
When you seek treatment for a substance use disorder at The Aviary Recovery Center, you can be assured that we will take the time to get to know you, to listen to you, and to craft a personalized treatment plan that takes into account the wide range of factors that could be contributing to your disorder. We have the expertise to address any co-occurring mental health disorders—like anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—that accompany and possibly impact your substance use disorder. And we will take into account your physical health, your personal history, and your current situation and goals.
All told, you can count on us to offer holistic treatment options that will serve as the foundation for your recovery journey (which can also be approached in a holistic way) and support your long-term sobriety.