What Are Complementary Therapies

         Complementary therapies are therapies that you use alongside traditional therapy and treatments. Even if traditional therapy and medications are working for you, complementary therapy can still provide benefits and improve your overall mental health. No therapy or medications should be stopped without doctors approval even if you are feeling better.


Some people have success with dealing with psychology on a physical level. In some cases a diagnosed mental illness is the result of a vitamin deficiency or physical illness. Complementary therapies can be a good way to deal with medication side effects. A lot of psych medications have the side effect of weight gain or fatigue which can also be enormously affected by diet and exercise.


Music therapy can be a replacement for traditional therapy if done by an accredited music therapist. While listening to music on your own can be very helpful in improving mood, Music therapy is much more than that. From helping people regain speech after a brain injury to lessening the effects of dementia, music therapy is certainly something worth asking about at your next appointment.


Meditation is an underrated resource for improving your mental health. Not only can it be good for anxiety and depression but it is also good for regulating sleep patterns and pain relief. I suggest starting off with guided meditation which you can find videos of on youtube or podcasts on itunes.


Wilderness Therapy/Forest Therapy/Shinrin-Yoku are therapeutic programs that bring you into nature. There are programs available for young adults, professionals for team building, veterans, and adults. Forest therapy takes you away from the stress of technology and everyday life.


Hypnotherapy/hypnosis isn’t the joke it once was. Anytime I saw someone being hypnotized, I thought most certainly the person was playing along and it was merely a trick. However, through the years it has grown in popularity and more research has been done. While some people are unable to be hypnotized, many people benefit greatly from it. Studies such as one done by the University of Iowa, Journal of Applied Psychology, October 1992 show just hypnosis can work.


Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that is based on creative expression through coloring, sculpting, sketching, painting, etc. While doing these things independently can be therapeutic, there are professionally run programs that can make a bigger impact. From building self-esteem to creating social statements in public settings, art therapy provides assistance in cognitive, social and behavioral mental health.


Destruction Therapy is performed in an “anger room” or “rage room”. The aim is to release anger and stress in a safe environment through destruction. Computers, cups, TVs and much more are provided with a price range of $20-$500 depending on location and package. Most places even allow you to bring your own breakables as well. Many people find the experience to be relieving and enjoyable.


Vitamins/Supplements are certainly something to discuss with your doctor. It isn’t uncommon for someone to have a vitamin deficiency which can cause symptoms like fatigue and worsened depression. Before you start taking any vitamin, your doctor should review your current medication to ensure no interactions occur. Blood tests should be done as well to see if you have any vitamin deficiencies.


Tai Chi is a form of martial art that originates from China.  It is low impact and is performed with fluid motion, focus and deep breathing. Similar to meditation, Tai Chi promotes stillness of the mind. Some choose to focus more on the self-defense part of Tai Chi which also teaches grounding and calmness.


Equine Therapy involves working with a horse in a supervised setting. One of the biggest benefits is with self-awareness of emotions. Horses are sensitive to people’s emotions and reflect feelings such as anger, fear and joy. Because of their size, people can become easily intimidated. Learning to accept unpleasant feelings such as fear and move past them to reach a set goal. Grooming horses can help form a better understanding of other’s needs and feelings. For young and old, those with chronic pain, Autism, depression, anxiety and much more. With all of the benefits for such a wide range of clientele, it is quite surprising to see it hasn’t grown more in popularity.


Light Therapy is mostly used to treat (SAD) Seasonal Affective Disorder although research points to it being useful in other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and non-seasonal depression. Light therapy works by mimicking natural sunlight which is shown to increase serotonin levels and regulate melatonin production. The therapeutical standard is 10,000 Lux. Average cost for a worthwhile light runs around $150.


Laughter Therapy may make you think of the movie “Patch Adams” where Robin Williams stumbles into a children’s cancer ward. Upon seeing the dismal atmosphere, he proceeds to act silly in order to make the children laugh. The children quickly respond to his antics with smiling and laughter, seemingly forgetting if only for a moment where they were and what they were struggling with. I believe the reason we do not see this used as much is that when you are going through a difficult time, it’s harder to laugh. Research has shown though that laughter can do much for the body, not just the mind. Upon further research I found there to be therapists to assist in this form of therapy however If you are complying with all of your doctor’s instructions, a little laughter won’t hurt you if done on your own!


Yoga can benefit your mental health in many ways. Yoga makes you slow down, focus and process. Yoga can help you learn to deal with the challenges you face in a calmer and less impulsive manner. Low impact and soothing, It’s certainly worth trying!


Exercise has obvious benefits for the body but our activity level does have a big impact on our mental health. Getting into shape boosts our self-esteem, reduces stress levels and helps regulate sleep patterns. Exercise has shown to increase the size of a part of your brain known as the hippocampus. The hippocampus being responsible for emotion, memory and to some extent navigation. It’s pretty amazing if you think about it. You’re able to change your brain with movement!


You don’t have to sit on your hands while you wait for an appointment or for a medication to take full effect. Check with your doctor and see what kind of therapy you can add to your repertoire!


Comment down below and let me know what therapy techniques have worked for you?