3 Alternative Therapies for Treating Drug and Alcohol Use Disorder

This article is by The Fix


These days, clinical treatments can be delivered effectively in a setting that you find engaging.

There are many stereotypes about therapy and counseling. When you think about drug and alcohol treatment, you might picture yourself facing a therapist on an opposing couch, or sharing your worries and concerns in a circle of other people in early recovery. While those are common experiences, quality treatment centers provide an array of therapy options so that you can choose one that’s right for you.

Trying an unconventional approach to therapy can give you a new perspective. If you’ve felt stuck with therapeutic approaches in the past, a novel therapy approach might help you break through, giving you better understanding of the issues that contribute to your drug and alcohol abuse.


Here are 3 types of therapies that you might want to try.


Equine Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy allows clients to build their self-esteem and mental wellness through interactions with horses. During equine therapy, you’ll spend time with horses — grooming them, leading them, patting them — but you usually won’t be riding. Equine therapy is different from hippotherapy, which involves riding horses, usually to improve physical abilities and coordination. Instead of focusing on physical wellness, equine therapy encourages people to explore boundaries and emotional responses through their interactions with horses.

“The horses become metaphors for whatever the client is working on,” says Mark Frankle, M.A., LMFT, who offers equine therapy at Oceanside Malibu, a California treatment center.

During equine therapy, you’ll be guided by a mental health professional, who can help you examine your responses to various situations that you encounter with the horse. You’ll also benefit from interacting with the animal, Frankle says.

“There’s always an emotional feedback loop occurring, horses have similar neuro responses as humans”, he said. “It’s two mammals interacting; if a client is brushing or petting the horse, the horse relaxes, the person relaxes.”


Art Therapy

If you have an interest in visual art, art therapy can be a great option to explore. During art therapy, you use visual mediums to express yourself. That could mean painting, sculpting, or drawing your feelings. An art therapist will guide you through talking about your work and understanding what it might reveal about the underlying issues that could be contributing to your substance use disorder.

Many people feel that making art — rather than talking about their feelings directly — is a more comfortable way of understanding themselves. It can be less intimidating and confronting than needing to talk about your feelings directly. If you find yourself stuck around certain issues, art therapy with a qualified therapist can help you break through and make progress on your road to recovery.



If you have a flair for the dramatic or have always loved being on stage, you might want to give psychodrama a try. Psychodrama often involves role-playing or acting. By examining your response to different situations, you can gain insight into your own emotional motivations. Your therapist can act as the director, urging you to try different approaches problem-solving and conflict resolutions. That way, you’re able in order to practice various solutions in a safe space.

The role-play aspect of psychodrama isn’t just fun — it also allows you to practice what you’ve learned in therapy, perfecting it before you have to use it in the real world.


What to look for from a therapist

Whether you’re doing traditional talk therapy, or opting for a more unique approach like psychodrama, equine therapy or art therapy, you should always look for a qualified provider. The tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy, a proven method, underlie all of these different approaches. Look for a counselor who is knowledgeable about CBT, and certified in the specific form of therapy that you’d like to explore.

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