The field of mental health care keeps growing. People look for new ways to help alongside or instead of classic treatments. A big spotlight now shines on alternative therapies for anxiety and depression, among others.1 These approaches, like yoga and acupuncture, aim to boost happiness, calm, and overall mental health.1 Yet, it leaves us wondering: do these methods really help with mental health issues?

This article dives into the power of various alternative therapies. It considers practices linking the mind and body, treatments from nature, and those focusing on energy. The goal is to look at how these methods could assist with mental health. We’ll check what studies and real-life experiences show. This should help us understand their value in mental health care today.

Key Takeaways

  • Some people turn to alternative therapies to uplift their well-being and mental health.
  • Scientific support for these therapies for mental health issues is not clear for some. They often split opinions.
  • Alternative treatments, like acupuncture and aromatherapy, might help certain folks. But, we need more studies to know for sure.
  • Putting alternative therapies into a complete mental health care strategy can be a good move. Yet, always talk with health experts and go to trained practitioners.
  • The rules and training for alternative therapies aren’t the same everywhere. It’s key to pick a therapist with the right qualifications.

What Are Complementary and Alternative Therapies?

Complementary and alternative therapies, often called CATs, aren’t part of typical medical care.1 They aim to boost wellness, help you relax, and improve mental health. They do this by looking at how the mind, body, and spirit are all connected.2

Defining Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary therapies work together with regular medical treatments. But alternative therapies replace them.2 It’s important to know this difference. One supports mainstream medicine, the other does not.2

Distinguishing Complementary from Alternative Approaches

Complementary therapies are used with regular treatments. They focus on every part of a person’s health.2 Yet, alternative therapies stand on their own. They believe they can do the job without standard care.2

This article looks at different complementary and alternative therapies. It discusses how they can help with mental health.12

Types of Alternative Therapies for Mental Health

The field of alternative therapies for mental health is wide and varied. It covers many techniques that focus on the ties between the mind, body, and spirit. There are three main areas these therapies fall into: mind-body practices, biologically-based therapies, and energy therapies.

Mind-Body Practices

These practices look at how our thoughts and emotions affect our health. They include activities like meditation, yoga, and paying attention to how we breathe.3 Mindfulness meditation is linked to lower stress and anxiety.3 A study from 2020 says it’s also tied to less depression and anger, and better mental health overall.3

Yoga is recommended by the American Psychological Association for anxiety and sleep issues.3 Deep breathing exercises can boost focus, lower stress hormones, and improve mood.3

Biologically-Based Therapies

These therapies rely on natural substances to help mental health. For example, certain herbs can help with depression and anxiety. But it’s important to check if they’re safe to use with other medications.1 A diet that causes a lot of inflammation might make mental illnesses worse. This includes serious conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.3

Energy Therapies

1 Acupuncture, which uses tiny needles, has had promising results in battling depression and insomnia.1 Aromatherapy and its scents may help with depression, anxiety, and stress, though more research is needed to be certain.1 The emotional freedom technique focuses on stress, emotions, and self-esteem.1 Homeopathy doesn’t have a lot of government support, but some people find it helps. Hypnotherapy, meanwhile, can help reach goals in a deep relaxation, but it’s usually private, not covered by the NHS.1

2 In psychiatry, alternative medicines are seen as a valid option. These can include things like acupressure, acupuncture, and massages, among others. They offer a safe and cost-effective way to help with mental health.2

Potential Benefits of Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies can help us feel better emotionally. They can reduce stress and make us relax.4 People using techniques like meditation or massage often see less stress and worry.4 Methods like aromatherapy or herbal treatments can also boost mood and control emotions.5

Promoting Relaxation and Stress Reduction

These therapies are great at making us relax and handling stress.4 Yoga and breathing exercises are known to help lower stress. They are especially useful for soldiers and PTSD patients.4 Yoga and smelling different scents through aromatherapy can also ease anxiety.5

Enhancing Emotional Well-being

They work by bringing the mind, body, and spirit together.2 Methods like mindful relaxation or certain spiritual therapies can lower depression and anxiety.4 Even what we eat can influence our mood. Special diets, like anti-inflammatory ones, can help.2

benefits of alternative therapies

Alternative Therapies for Mental Health: Are They Effective?

The debate over alternative therapies for mental health is ongoing.1 Some studies suggest these therapies work. Yet, the evidence is mixed, and not all therapies have solid scientific backing.1 We need more studies to clearly see if these therapies help.1

People use these therapies to try to feel better and relax.1 But, not everyone agrees on how effective they are for mental health issues.1 Still, some folks swear by these methods. They say what works for one person might not work for another.1

Choosing the right therapist is key since not all alternative therapies are monitored.1 According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the proof of these therapies’ effectiveness is thin.1 Always check with a doctor before trying alternative therapies, especially if you’re taking medication, pregnant, nursing, or under 18.1

The discussion continues about the value of these alternative approaches.1 Some treatments once thought helpful have turned out not to be.2 Still, a few different methods have shown some promise.2 It’s clear that more research is needed to fully understand these methods in mental health care.2

Nutritional Approaches for Mental Health

Exploring nutrition’s impact on mental health is a growing area of study. We’re learning that eating right can help our minds. In particular, anti-inflammatory diets, elimination and low-FODMAP diets, and herbal supplements show promise. They offer additional ways to deal with mental health issues.

Anti-Inflammatory Diets

Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants seems to lower the chance of feeling depressed or anxious. The Mediterranean diet is a great example. It helps reduce the body’s inflammation, which might improve mental health.67

Elimination and Low-FODMAP Diets

Some people find that food and gut issues affect their mood. Elimination diets and low-FODMAP diets can pinpoint and deal with these problems. This focus could make both your gut and mind feel better.7

Herbal Supplements

St. John’s wort and chamomile are examples of herbs that might help with mental health. But, always talk to your doctor before trying any herbal remedy. They might not mix well with your medications or could have other risks.

Mind-Body Therapies for Mental Health

This article looks into mind-body therapies, focusing on mindfulness and meditation‘s mental health benefits. Studies show that practicing these can lessen anxiety and depression. They can boost your overall mental state too.8 These methods help people focus on the now, handle stress better, and control their emotions more.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness encourages staying fully in the present. This has major benefits for mental stress and well-being.8 Research shows that mindfulness can make you react less to social stress and lower anxiety and depression.8 Meditation’s focused attention is also helpful. It increases positive emotions, boosts certain brain areas, and strengthens the immune system. For example, it enhances the response to the flu shot.9

More and more people are trying mind-body techniques and prayer. In America, over 30% of adults used these methods by 2002.9 Also, more than half the population used prayer the same year.9

People facing long-term body pain find mind-body practices very appealing. They’re more than twice as likely to use them as others.10 Furthermore, prayer is a popular choice for those with body pain.10 But, whether someone uses these methods often depends on their gender and education. Men and those with less schooling are less likely to try them.10

Using mindfulness and meditation in your mental health plan can really help. It allows you to control stress, lessen anxiety and depression symptoms, and feel emotionally stronger.

mind-body therapies

Bodywork Therapies for Mental Health

As mental health understanding grows, bodywork therapies like massage get more focus. It’s been proven that11 massage helps reduce anxiety and depression. It also betters sleep and mental health overall. With 12-month mental disorders hitting 47.4% to 58.3% in the population,11 we need these alternative therapies. They target the link between the mind and the body.

Massage Therapy

Massage is a key player in the mental health field.11 Studies show it boosts brain patterns for being alert and cuts down on anxiety. Moreover, reviews highlight its success in treating depression and increasing the body’s ability to fight infections.11 For HIV patients,11 it boosts their immune function, protecting them.

Types of Massage for Mental Health

Meditation can come with different techniques best for individual mental health issues.12 You might benefit from Swedish or deep tissue massage. They restore the body’s natural balance and promote relaxation. Bodywork can also boost your mood by releasing chemicals like serotonin.

Techniques like back massage and reflexology are great for improving sleep and lowering fatigue, especially in women after childbirth and dialysis patients.11 This kind of massage can also help calm people with dementia and kids with autism.11

But it doesn’t stop there. Massage also tackles generalized anxiety well, showing a decrease in patient symptoms.11 By focusing on the connection between mind and body, massages are crucial for mental health and good vibes.

Physical Activity and Mental Health

New research shows a strong link between exercise and feeling good in your mind. It emphasizes how moving our bodies can help our mental health.13

Aerobic Exercise

Running, cycling, and swimming are good examples of aerobic exercise. They help a lot with feelings of anxiousness and sadness.13 Doing these activities often makes mental health issues much lighter. And if you push yourself a little harder when exercising, it usually helps even more.13 The good feelings from working out can stick around for months, even if you start slowing down a bit.14


Yoga is a mix of poses, controlled breathing, and calming your mind. It shows great potential, especially for those with serious mental health conditions.14 For example, it can really help those with schizophrenia when added to their treatments. Studies suggest it’s beneficial for many big mental health issues.14 Teachers have even felt better and less stressed after doing a special kind of yoga for a while.14


Breathwork includes techniques like pranayama, focusing on your breath, and other mindful breathing methods. It’s great for chillaxing and making your emotional state better.14 Researchers say that adding meditation to your day can really cut down on how stressed you feel. And they’ve seen that working on your breath can make you sleep better and help manage your blood pressure if it’s too high.14

For a wide range of mental health problems, being active can be a game-changer. It shows promise in lessening symptoms and boosting your mood.15 By including exercises, yoga, and breathwork in our health routines, we can make huge strides in our mental fitness.13

Type of Physical ActivityKey Findings
Aerobic Exercise
  • Effective intervention for managing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression13
  • Higher intensity exercises yield greater improvements in mental health symptoms13
  • Therapeutic benefits of exercise can be maintained even after 10 months14
  • Effective as an add-on treatment for patients with schizophrenia14
  • Shown to be an effective complementary treatment for major psychiatric disorders14
  • Improves mental well-being and reduces state anxiety in teachers14
  • Reduces stress and promotes emotional well-being14
  • Significant effects on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives14

Integrating Alternative Therapies into Mental Health Care

More people are using alternative therapies for mental health. It’s important to find how these therapies fit into a full care plan.16 Using both standard and alternative methods can give a more complete and personal way to handle mental health.

Consulting Healthcare Providers

It’s key to talk with health experts before trying alternative therapies. They can help you use these treatments safely with traditional ones.4 Working as a team with your doctors helps create a plan that combines all the best treatments.

Finding Qualified Practitioners

There are many kinds of alternative therapies, so finding skilled practitioners is vital.16 Be sure to check the qualifications and experience of these experts. This step makes sure you get top-notch, safe, and ethical care for your mental health.

By working closely with your healthcare team and learning about these therapies, you can get the most out of them.4 Using both traditional and alternative methods together can better manage symptoms, increase your strength, and support your full mental health recovery.

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