3 Alternative Approaches to Addiction Recovery

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Addiction recovery is a frustrating, often lifelong, process. If you or a loved one are struggling to overcome an addiction, it may feel like you have tried every solution. But every day, advancements are being made that help behavioral scientists understand addiction and recovery. This new understanding is helping develop new approaches to recovery.

Addiction Recovery

Here are three alternative addiction recovery methods you may not have heard about yet.

1. Comprehensive, Continuous, Integrated Systems of Care (CCISC)

CCISC was developed by Kenneth Minkoff, M.D. to provide a multi-front approach to addiction treatment. CCISC have been implemented in 28 states. The basis of the system is a focus on success rather than failure, which enables the patient to become self-sufficient. These treatments have three main categories of focus: comprehension, continuation, and integration.


This method focuses on the patient as a whole, not just on their substance abuse. The patients’ “stories, not just their symptoms” as Minkoff puts it.


Unlike many rehabilitation programs, which only last from 15 to 90 days, CCISC are designed with the big picture in mind. These systems are intended to provide long-term, emotionally informed support for recovering addicts.


Many recovering addicts struggle with other problems along with their substance abuse, such as mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and unemployment or homelessness. CCISC are intended not only to treat addiction and psychiatric disorders, but also help patients receive medical care, become employed, and find housing.

This system focuses on creating a positive environment which empowers the patient to take action to solve problems in their own lives (source: Psychiatric News).

2. Neuroscience

Mental imaging has long been used to help us better understand how substance abuse affects brain activity and chemistry. Many counselors work with imaging scientists to understand the fundamental chemical exchanges that create substance dependency.

Imaging specialists, like those at Mindset Consulting Group, provide diagnostic analysis and even serve as neuroscience expert witnesses in court cases involving addiction. Many substance abuse counselors are now turning to neuroscience to better understand the brain activity of their clients.

Using brain imaging, mental health professionals can monitor dopamine levels, emotional changes, and the effects of prescription medication, making the process more precise than it has previously been.

3. Animal-Assisted Therapy

Animal-assisted therapy has been used to improve the conditions of terminally ill patients and patients in serious physical therapy. But, studies show that this therapy approach can also help those suffering from substance abuse.

The goal of animal therapy is to give participants an engaging, nurturing activity that distracts from negative medical and behavioral circumstances. This allows patients to build self-esteem, empathy, and escape some of the emotional strain inherent in rehabilitation. Animal-assisted therapy may employ the help of the following domestic animals:

  • horses (known as equine-assisted therapy)
  • dogs (known as canine-assisted therapy)
  • rabbits
  • llamas
  • dolphins

In a study conducted in a rehabilitation center in New York, 64% of the participants actively joined in the offered activities with therapy dogs. About 56% of the participants showed improved participation in group therapy activities, helping them work through difficult patches of their personal history. The study showed that the presence of therapy animals can facilitate cooperation, enjoyment, and progress in the recovery process (source: Therapy Dogs International).

Recovery is a difficult road, but more and more methods are being developed to help addicts to combat their negative behaviors. If 12-step programs seem too imprecise for you, consider trying a science-based recovery method. If counseling organizations are too impersonal, talk to your mental health care provider about animal-assisted therapy.

There is hope. There are options. If you feel as though you have exhausted all your resources, it may be time to try one of these alternative recovery methods.

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  1. Bharat says

    Hi Chaleigh,

    I’ll certainly appreciate this article, as we know there are huge number of people who are addicted to tobacco and healthy hazardous things. Many of them wants to leave their addiction but hardly able to do so. After reading this article I come to know there are actually few solid ways available to tackle with addition.

  2. Amy says

    Yes – love, persistence and integration 🙂 Helps with every kind of addiction. Oh, and also: desire for change. If the addicted don’t truly want something and don’t put some effort in it, nothing will happen.

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