by Mike Jones

The use of pharmaceuticals in treating mental health issues is common practice these days. But just because the medical establishment uses drugs as their “go to” resource does not mean they are the only ways to treat mental health problems, nor are they the best. There are many complementary and alternative therapies that have received a great deal of attention. Many have proven therapeutic benefits. If you’re looking for new approaches for your sessions with patients, here is what you should know.

Alternative and Complimentary Therapies

Often, a doctor’s first step is to prescribe medication. Some patients are uncomfortable with the possible side effects of psychiatric medications and want to look for alternatives. Others are looking for therapies to compliment the treatment plan they already have. When you are dealing with any sort of illness, anything that promises relief—especially without the possibility of side effects—is welcome.

Thus, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or CAM for short, is on the rise. According to research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, many patients suffering from mood disorders such as depression turn to alternative treatments such as homeopathy, yoga or Ayuverda. What is more, there are also new and engaging alternative therapies for mental illness that can be used together with other preferred methods of treatment to achieve relief. Here are the four most effective alternative mental therapies that patients should try.

1. Nutrition Therapy

There are as many as 40 different chemicals in the body that affect mental health. An emerging trend in psychiatry involves taking blood work to identify which chemicals are out of balance and prescribe vitamins to help reset the body’s balance naturally. It may sound like a new age fad, but studies are finding that the use of such nutrients as tryptophan and vitamin B-12 have been successfully used to treat patients. Patients may also be encouraged to change their diets.

In fact, nutrition therapy is also backed by medical research. According to the US National Library of Medicine, nutritional therapy has not been too popular in the medical community for the last couple of decades, but the use of supplements and the enforcement of dietary changes has been proved to help patients suffering from mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even major depression.

Fortunately, alternative and holistic medicine still fully supports nutrition therapy. Although a psychiatrist will most likely not recommend a St. John’s wort supplement for your OCD, holistic medicine has embraced the curative powers of nutrition therapy on the human mind. Thus, if you believe that this approach is the right one for any of your patients, don’t be afraid to prescribe a new dietary plan during your next session with them.

2. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-pharmaceutical treatment alternative. It involves using powerful magnets to produce repetitive magnetic pulsing. Repetitive magnetic pulsing can stimulate and regulate neural activity in the brain. This allows your practitioner to optimize your brain activity. The treatment has the full approval of the FDA. One of the highly-touted benefits of this type of treatment is that it is purported to be side-effect free. Most patients see significant improvement if not complete relief from symptoms within six weeks of beginning treatment.

There has been plenty of clinical evidence to support these claims. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used in the treatment of major depression for a while now. While at first concerns were raised about the levels of safety such a procedure entailed, medical trials have since shown that TMS is not damaging to the patient and can actually lead to successful results. This in turn means that introducing TMS to your patients is completely safe and you can suggest it.

3. Art/ Music/ Dance Therapy

Creative therapies such as art, music or dance offer an excellent outlet for patients. These therapies provide a relaxing or invigorating way to relive a patient’s mind of their own troubles and focus on something else, thus giving them a break from their problems. Art, music and dance therapies have been in use since the 1940s and have been shown to reduce stress levels. However, one particularly beneficial use of creative therapy in the realm of mental health is when dealing with schizophrenia.

One well-known example of such a therapy and its beneficial effects on the human mind is Louis Wain’s schizophrenic story. Louis Wain was a popular artist who created pictures of cats to help him deal with his schizophrenia. Not only was Wain able to find an outlet for expression, but many people connected to his work, even after he was hospitalized. Thus, it also gave him a way to connect with others.

And Wain’s story is not the only one of this kind. Research shows that art has curative powers for both psychological and physiological ailments. What is more, art therapy is a successful treatment in the case of trauma as well. And the most useful thing about it is that it can be easily integrated into someone’s treatment. Introducing a patient to art therapy can have beneficial effects on their healing process.

4. Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy, as the name implies, involves taking patients out into nature to learn skills and engage in outdoor adventures. This could be anything from working on survival skills to meditation to white water rafting. The benefits to mental health provided by taking patients to the great outdoors are well documented. Wilderness therapy has been clinically proven to be effective in treating mood disorders, especially in the case of adolescents and young adults.

Time spent in nature has been proven to lower stress and anxiety levels, lift mood and improve self-confidence. The activities patients engage in often also have the added benefit of promoting bonding or team building among participants.

What is more, exercise involved in outdoor activity is beneficial to patients. It promotes production of many of the “feel good” chemicals that are at a deficit in the anxious and depressed. Wilderness therapy addresses many of the factors that can contribute to mental wellness.

Conclusion

Alternative therapies are an excellent solution for mental health patients for which conventional pharmaceutical treatment methods have shown poor results. However, the best use for such a therapy is in partnership with a clinical treatment prescribed by a certified mental health professional.

When used together accordingly, the two can lead to incredible results. Keep this in mind if you are planning to introduce one of these approaches to your patients.

About the Author

Mike Jones is a writer that is particularly interested in offering useful advice on how to live healthier. He believes that natural remedies are a great alternative to traditional medicines but only if used under supervision. Besides his interest in natural living, Mike writes about travelling, cooking, and health. Check more of his work on Twitter and Facebook.