Massage Therapy as a Complementary Treatment: Substance Abuse Counselors

There’s no denying that receiving a massage feels great. Working kinks out of achy muscles is probably one of the best feelings in the world. Massage therapy is typically regarded as a luxury spa service, often accompanied by a body wrap and categorized as a spa or beauty service. Of course, the nature of a massage session – a dimly lit room with lovely music in the background – certainly plays in to this theory. And, of course, in a society where we associate taking care of bodies with torturous diets, rigorous workouts, and anxiety inducing doctor visits, it’s hard to imagine that something that feels as good as receiving massage does could actually be beneficial.

But it totally is! The benefits of receiving regular massage reach well beyond feeling good and working out kinks. Last year, through a series of blogs I call the “Body Systems Series,” I explored the benefits massage has for each system of your body. The more research that is done on the benefits of massage therapy, the more health care professionals begin to realize that massage therapy is an amazing form of complementary medicine (never to be confused with alternative medicine). So this year, through a series of blogs, I would like you to join me in the exploration of how massage therapists can work with other medical professionals. This month: substance abuse counselors!




addiction recovery


A substance abuse counselor is someone who assists others through the drug and alcohol rehabilitation process. They may also work with people recovering from eating or behavioral disorders, but this article will focus on drug and alcohol recovery. Their actual responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Working with recovering addicts to develop a goal and plan
  • Assist their patients in working toward their goals
  • Educate the patient on skills and strategies for recovery
  • Assess the patient’s mental condition and readiness for treatment
  • Educating the patient and their family and friends about addiction and how they may help in the recovery process
  • Refer patients to other services as needed

Substance abuse counselors work in a variety of settings, including mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, and their own private practice.





Image by Ea Spa Consulting Massage Institute


Patients recovering from addiction often feel heightened levels of stress and depression, due to the changes in body and brain chemistry that comes with learning to live without their desired substance. Receiving regular massage therapy reduces the levels the stress-causing agent cortisol, and increases levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. In this way, receiving regular massage can improve the patient’s mood and make the recovery process somewhat easier.

Reduced feelings of stress and depression also give a patient in recovery a more positive outlook on their progress, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will stick with their treatment plan.

Massage therapy also brings the client in tune with their own body – allowing the recipient to take better notice of what they feel physically and mentally. This can be beneficial for a person in recovery, who has become accustomed to being out of touch with the reality around them. Receiving regular massage therapy can assist the client in identifying feelings of stress, depression, or anxiety sooner. This in turn allows the client to deal with these feelings before they become too difficult to overcome.

Massage therapy is an often overlooked, but very beneficial addition to the treatment plan for people in drug and alcohol recovery. Please keep in mind that massage therapy should not be considered an alternate form of medicine – it is only complementary. Please always follow the advice of your primary care physician and other health care professionals.



Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors,
on the Internet at (visited August 05, 2017)



“Group Therapy Fees.”


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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