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Conference lineup demonstrates that holistic care has arrived

April 7, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Some of treatment’s biggest names are supporting this month’s Las Vegas meeting

John Giordano recalls a time not long ago when addiction professionals would chuckle upon hearing a colleague talk of providing “holistic” treatment. Today, it would appear that some of the most prestigious treatment centers can’t move fast enough to be associated with the term, now that more are seeing how complementary therapies can help improve upon the success of traditional treatment strategies.

“Fifteen years ago, people didn’t know what the term meant,” says Giordano, co-founder and president of the G&G Holistic Addiction Treatment Program in Dade County, Florida. “Holistic treatment means to treat someone globally.”

Using more blunt language, Giordano scoffs at those who claim to use a medical model for treating addictions but who never assess key biomarkers that could be a major source or exacerbating factor for patients’ problems. “They call addiction treatment a medical model, but if it’s a medical model then everyone should be sued for malpractice,” Giordano said.

Later this month, close to 1,000 professionals are expected to attend a conference in Las Vegas that is being called “Holistic Treatment: Changing the Way We Look at Recovery—Body, Mind & Spirit.” The April 28-30 event is being hosted by Giordano’s center along with the Alliance for Addiction Solutions (a group of integrative medicine experts) and Foundations Recovery Network, a leading voice nationally on effective treatment of co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders.

Other prominent co-hosts and sponsoring organizations read like a who’s who of well-regarded addiction treatment facilities. The list includes CRC Health Group, Crossroads Centre Antigua, Hanley Center, The Meadows, Memorial-Hermann Prevention & Recovery Center, Pine Grove Behavioral Health, Promises Treatment Centers and Spirit Lodge. “Everyone’s looking at what we’re doing,” Giordano says.

Conference materials state that the target audience includes clinicians of various roles, including chemical dependency counselors and psychologists. Giordano says organizers want attendees to leave the meeting with “a bigger tool bag,” so that they “can stop looking at what they do from just one angle.”

Attendees will have firsthand exposure to some of the types of treatment and other services that come under the large umbrella of holistic care. There will be acupuncturists in attendance, as well as people well-versed in amino acid therapies, nutritional aids and hyperbaric therapies.

It is important to remember several factors related to these and other complementary therapies, Giordano says: They enhance but don’t replace 12-Step and other effective treatments; their users can never make claims that they “cure” a disease; and they need to be carried out in accordance with voluminous research that illustrates best practices for their use.

“The studies say that for acupuncture to be effective it needs to be done four or five times a week, but some programs offer it once a week and say they are holistic,” Giordano says. “Other programs say they have gym facilities, but then you find out that it’s three machines in a room.”

For registration information or other details surrounding the conference, visit