Traditionally addiction treatment centres in Ireland are abstinence 12 step based, using a combination of educational talks, one to one counselling and group therapy where clients are admitted for a 4 to 6-week program. However, the increasing popularity and success of complementary therapies have meant that some treatment facilities now incorporate some of these therapies into their treatment program.

So what complementary therapies are being used and how does it support client’s treatment and recovery? Complementary Therapies such as equine therapy and yoga are excellent practices when recovering from an addiction.

Equine Therapy

Equine therapy is an effective treatment for people struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol dependence. Horses are sensitive animals who are tuned into what people are projecting and feeling. The horse will react differently depending on how the person is projecting and the horse will react by either approaching or withdrawing from the person. If the person is feeling vulnerable or anxious the horse will approach whereas if the person is feeling angry or aggressive the horse will withdraw.

In essence, the horse reacts to what people do rather than say. This can give therapists valuable insight into the person. Normally counsellors hear the client’s story from their point of view and perspective. Working with clients with addictions can mean the client may withhold or be unable to identify what feelings are coming up for them.

Equine Therapy is an experiential approach which helps clients recognise emotional issues and allows them to tell their story at their own pace. As horses are able to sense that something is going on for the client it allows therapists use this as a valuable learning tool and address underlying issues the client may have.


In recent years Yoga has become very popular in the wider population, teaching people to embrace its healing powers in the treatment of anxiety, depression and addictions. Yoga is the ancient practice of bringing the mind and body closer together using meditation, breathing and exercise. Yoga treats both the physical and psychological side of the person.

People who are suffering from addiction can have low levels of the neurotransmitter such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and the practice of yoga can increase these levels in the brain. With addictions, clients can feel out of control internally causing angry outbursts, feelings of anxiety and panic. Yoga requires discipline, and the practice of mindful breathing helps to curtail the reactive impulses which substance abusers often struggle with. Yoga postures and breathing exercises can be used anywhere anytime which empowers clients with coping skills they can use when a sponsor or therapist isn’t readily available. Through the use of exercise and breathing clients can learn to stay with and work through any uncomfortable feeling they may be having. Yoga can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, anytime and it increases the connection between mind, body and spirit which often becomes disconnected in addiction.

So, in summary, there are many complementary therapies which can support someone in treatment and recovery, equine therapy and yoga are some of a variety of available therapies. Aqua therapy, Integrated Energy therapy, Reiki, Emotional Freedom techniques are also beneficial in supporting someone in recovery from the effects of addiction, whether it’s their own or someone else’s. The goal is to find something that suits you and go with it!

Warmest Wishes,

Eileen Foley

Read here how using EFT can help you cope with a loved one’s addiction. Emotional Freedom techniques 


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