There are a number of alternative therapies that complement traditional treatment for mental health diseases.
Whether someone is considering therapy for the first time or returning to therapy for extra support, it can be overwhelming to determine which approach is best for each individual’s unique situation. Therapists and patients should work together to explore the best treatment options, and many may find it beneficial to incorporate alternative therapy treatments into current treatment methods. Holistic therapies, also known as integrative therapies, focus on tailoring the methods to the individual, often with two or more types of therapy. There are a wide range of complementary therapy options to treat people experiencing neurological impairments, those who struggle with mental health disorders and more. Some unique therapies that have gained popularity in recent years include art therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, yoga, biofeedback, equine-assisted therapy and more.
There are multiple types of alternative therapies that fall into the expressive category:
1. Art therapy is an integrative mental health approach using active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience to give clients a healthy and constructive way to express emotions, urges, impulses, or thoughts they may otherwise be able to express. Professional art therapists use drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, and other visual art forms to give clients a creative outlet and learn new skills as well. Art therapy has been found to be particularly effective during times of crisis, helping people feel more in control of their own lives.
2. Movement/dance therapy can help participants feel more connected with their bodies and find themselves embracing their individuality and self-expression. Dance therapy is beneficial for both physical and mental health, and can help with stress reduction, disease prevention, and mood management. There’s a connection between the movement of the body and the calmness of the mind, and that interconnectedness can be explored through multiple styles of movement and dance.
3. Music therapy has become a popular way to engage participants socially and cognitively, with interactive activities designed to reduce anxiety, improve healing, help manage illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, reduce depression, improve self-expression and more. The power of music has been researched extensively over the years, and the combination of music therapy with other types of therapies has proven to benefit many in a number of ways.
4. Yoga, when used in combination with other treatments for depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders, can actually help not only in healing, but with brain health as well. With its emphasis on deep breathing and meditation, yoga helps calm and center the mind and brings with it a number of health benefits. The focus and concentration required to practice yoga help balance the physical with the mental.
5. Biofeedback therapy is done along with a therapist and can help you gain control of involuntary impulses in your body by becoming more in tune with your stress responses. It’s used to manage many physical and mental health issues, working to help you control symptoms of your condition or reduce the amount of medication you take. Eventually, the goal is to be able to practice the biofeedback techniques you learn on your own.
6. Equine-assisted therapy is a more experiential therapeutics tool, and has really grown in popularity in recent years. Working with an animal (or animals) under the guidance of a healthcare professional may benefit some people with mental illness by facilitating positive changes, and can be used as part of group therapy programs. The connection between animals and humans can create a sense of calm, safety and enhanced well-being while also decreasing anger, aggression, depression, impulsiveness and more. The empathy and bonding involved in horse therapy, whether through grooming, caring for, spending time with or riding the horse, can help clients recognize how the horse’s behaviors might reflect their own emotions, helping them to identify their emotions and actions while also practicing being in the present moment.
Understanding that therapies should be catered to the individual and can often be complemented by one or more additional approaches can help therapists teach patients how to be happier and healthier. Finding the right combination of treatments can allow individuals to live their best lives. Before trying alternative therapies for mental health diseases, it’s important to first discuss the options with their doctor to see if they are a good fit.