How complementary and alternative therapies can help with mental health

We are all unique.

Just as none of us suffer with the same physical ailments, it follows that we would also not face the same emotional problems. So when it comes to treatment, there is a spectrum of choices available, for the very reason that different therapies are needed and will work differently with and for different individuals.

Whilst conventional medicine, backed by research and funding, is widely available from the GP, complementary and alternative therapies do not have much research behind them. Many of these therapies have their roots in ancient practices, before conventional medicine came into sight, and what we tend to see with many of them, is that there has to be a belief in the treatment working. Our minds need to be active in the healing process for it to be a successful and positive experience, as is the case with meditation and mindfulness.

We put our beliefs in conventional medicine as this is where we trust the research has been done and that those treatments and medications that are widely available are best for us. However whilst the tide may be changing in some cases, mainstream medicine does not generally take a holistic approach to healing, and often the focus is on targeting and treating the symptoms with medication or forms of talking therapies, without taking the time to get to the root of the problem.
For example, prescribing antidepressants without discussing the patient’s sleep hygiene or ‘unhealthy’ habits, will not help ease the problem of depression in the long term. However if we take a holistic approach, then we look at a person’s sleep hygiene, nutrition, physical and mental habits, emotional state and what is currently happening in their lives and make adjustments accordingly, so that the client remains in a state of good health and can maintain it.

Complementary and alternative therapies can be accessed via health spas, private clinics, mental health charities and alternative therapy and wellbeing centres.

Below are a few complementary therapies and their benefits:

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to improve health and wellbeing. This can be through aromatherapy massage, using oils catered to your emotional needs, such as lavender to help with relaxation and sleep, or by breathing in through a diffuser or dissolving in baths. Certain oils can help with anxiety and depression and other emotional states so this can be helpful to alleviate symptoms.

Massage can help rid the body of tension and help with relaxation and give an overall sense of wellbeing. This can be very useful if someone has been stressed and is having trouble relaxing and is holding a lot of tension in their bodies which can result in not breathing properly and cause aches and pains.

Yoga has the double benefit of being an exercise which is beneficial for emotional wellbeing, but also teaches breathing techniques and improves flexibility and strength, inner and outer. Often visualisations and affirmations are also used so it can be a well-rounded way to deal with negative feelings such as stress or low self-belief.

Meditation and Mindfulness can bring you back to the present moment; it essentially aims to bring you out of your worry of the past or future and instead grounds you in the present in a state of calm and safety. There is also a focus on breathing deeply and properly. Praying can evoke the same calmness and when we put our trust in Allah SWT we are also relieving ourselves of worry and placing it with Him therefore  we have to be present when we are praying.

Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese medicine and involves small needles being placed at certain points in the body. There has not been much research into whether it can treat mental health conditions though some practitioners believe it can do so.

Homeopathy is a treatment based on the use of highly diluted substances which are used to ‘heal’ the body. The belief is that the substance that causes the illness can also be used in curing the illness and the dilution process is said to be related to the healing.

Herbal medicine or remedies are made from plants, and can be dispensed as liquids, powders and creams. Just like essential oils, herbs can be very potent and so it is important to seek correct treatment and also to check that it will not affect any other conditions you may have or affect any other medication you may be taking.

Hijamah uses cupping to draw blood to the surface of the skin, through suction cups, where a practitioner will either make small cuts to the skin to draw impure blood out of the body. This works as a detoxification of the body which can improve physical and mental health. As with other detoxification methods, there are requirements to diet and lifestyle shortly after the treatment, to help its success so it already incorporates a holistic approach.

Some alternative therapies are;

Chinese medicine is based on ancient Chinese methods of treatment such as Chinese herbal medicine, Tai Chi and acupuncture.

Ayurvedic medicine has its roots in India, and also takes a holistic approach and is centred around creating balance between mind, body and spirit.

Whilst alternative therapies can replace conventional forms of treatment, complementary therapies can be used alongside current treatments, so there is less commitment in going against the norm and trusted way. However, as with any treatment it is best to check with your GP, and to also check with the therapist to make sure that the person is qualified or registered with a governing body and so under regulation. Any qualified therapist should take a complete history in the way the GP would, and professional standards should be held.

One of the benefits of complementary therapies is that they are personalised and catered to you, but as these treatments are usually only available privately and not on public healthcare, they can be more costly than conventional medicine. Perhaps for some it is often worth the personal attention and results they can bring about rather than being on the doctor’s waiting list, but it is all about individual choice. Thought should be put into how long treatment will last, in terms of timing and cost, before making a decision to go down this route.

Would you be willing to try a combination of therapies?

Faizah Malik

Faizah Malik

Faizah is an English, American Literature and Comparative Literary Studies graduate from the University of Kent at Canterbury. She has a background in Publishing and has worked for Hachette and HarperCollins. She now dedicates her time to writing and running her online business Kenze. She is currently studying Counselling and Psychotherapy at the Convergence College in Milton Keynes and has been involved in arranging workshops for local women to boost confidence and provide support to those who may need it. It is her passion for healing others that motivates her and she hopes to provide a voice through her writing to inspire hope to those who are struggling.

2 Comments

  • Nice article. I know very little about therapies, though have an interest in mentoring, coaching and positive psychology.

    With regards to the question of mixing therapies, as stated in the article, there’s a lack of research with regards to the effectiveness of these in particular instances.

    If there’s a lack of research at an individual therapy level, the question would then be whether combining therapies is appropriate.

    With warm regards

  • Faizah says:

    Salam thank you for your comments.
    As stated in the article you can do your own research when it comes to alternative therapies and check that the therapist is adhering to some regulating body and has insurance to make sure you are in safer hands but in terms of complimentary therapies which can be used alongside regular treatment we have advised to check with your GP to make sure that there will not be any adverse effects.
    As with any treatment you opt to take by yourself without going down the GP route the responsibility would be on yourself to find out as much as you can before making that decision.
    I hope this helps.
    Jazakallah khair

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