Mental health treatment programs can generally be divided into three categories: pharmacology, talk therapy, and other treatments. Most cases are addressed primarily through talk therapy and medication, rather than experiential treatments like holistic therapy for mental health.
While most people know about antidepressants like Prozac and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax, fewer people know about alternative treatment, neurofeedback, or nerve stimulation, and even fewer people know about the effects of mindfulness and spirituality in the treatment of different disorders through journaling, animal-assisted therapy, or holistic therapy.
A comprehensive and individualized treatment plan must look at a person’s experiences, circumstances, and unique needs when formulating an effective treatment.
In many cases, a person’s depressive thoughts are not adequately addressed simply through a round of antidepressants.
Just as conditions like anxiety and drug use are often multifactored and biopsychosocial, so much of their treatment address different underlying causes and apply a variety of methodologies to get to a person’s physical needs, emotional needs, and in some cases, spiritual needs. Holistic therapy for mental health is one such modality that aims to focus on this comprehensive overview and incorporate spiritual healing as well as other forms of mental health treatment.
What is Holistic Therapy?
By its definition, holistic therapy attempts to provide a more wholesome approach to treating a mental health issue by addressing physical, emotional, and spiritual issues. This multifaceted approach requires both traditional and non-traditional or alternative mental health treatments, from talk therapy to mindfulness training, meditation, massage, hypnosis, or yoga.
Some people dismiss holistic therapy for mental health because it involves alternative or less-studied treatment modalities, or because it focuses on spirituality as part of its methodology. But spirituality is an important aspect of mental health for many people.
Spirituality is not a vague or mystical force, but a set of beliefs about the world and oneself that center around a moral core.
We are each in touch with our spirituality to a varying degree and define it differently – a holistic therapy plan simply aims to introduce a dialectic approach to mental health issues and spiritual issues, reconciling fears and doubts, and helping clients become self-assured, improve their self-worth, and utilize the benefits of mindfulness and reflection to reduce anxiety, improve depressive symptoms, and overcome mental hardship.
To that end, holistic therapy for mental health differs in the way it is applied from case to case. Some people respond better to yoga than others. Some prefer journaling and mindfulness exercises. Some can learn to meditate alone and turn it into a daily habit. Some respond well to breathwork and hypnosis.
All holistic therapies incorporate these alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional one-on-one and group therapy, including family therapy sessions and specialized psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.
Spirituality in Mental Health Treatment
Mental and physical factors are well-established in both the cause and treatment of mental health issues.
Whether these are social factors such as isolation and poverty, or physical conditions such as chronic pain, we know that both the mind and body contribute to our thinking and long-term behavioral habits – and that addressing our thoughts and habits requires addressing mental as well as physical factors, whenever and wherever possible. Beyond these surface factors are deeper differences that fundamentally affect a person’s resilience to anxious responses, or relationships with joy and depression.
Holistic therapies assert that spirituality is a third important vector to account for, in that learning to reconcile our thoughts and behavior with our spirituality – questions on our relationship with the world around us and the concepts of our personal worldview beyond the physical, whether it’s a traditional religion like Christianity or a personal spiritual framework – can help improve mental health symptoms and offer yet another important avenue to explore in therapy.
Spirituality can be loosely defined as a person’s relationship with the world around them beyond the physical – their place in existence, however they choose to define or explore it, and how that reflects on their own view of themselves, their duties and responsibilities, and the direction of their moral compass. In other words, spirituality might be a never-ending journey toward a personal truth about how and why things are.
It’s natural that such deep questions do play a role in how a person might feel about their struggles with mental health, and that they may provide an avenue for recontextualizing and improving our mental health. Someone who struggles with depressive thoughts may find solace in some form of spirituality and find ways to recontextualize their worries in a way that they feel calmer, and more at peace.
Within a structured program, certain spiritual activities can help people clear their minds and improve their mental health symptoms, often through a combination of both spiritual concepts and clear physical or mental treatments. Holistic therapy for mental health is used in the treatment of:
- Anxiety disorders
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- And more.
For example, breathwork is a common form of meditation or prayer in both traditional and non-traditional religions. However, as a tool for mental health treatment, it can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system and help mediate the stressed and overstimulated sympathetic nervous system, temporarily reducing symptoms of anxiety. The same goes for other relaxation methods and treatment modalities like yoga and acupuncture.
Exploring Alternative Therapies with Scientific Scrutiny
It’s easy to dismiss some of these ideas and treatments as pseudo-scientific. Yet there is merit to them, as researchers have found.
Regardless of how an individual frames their own beliefs, certain holistic methods induce relaxation and have an anti-anxiety effect, as well as an antidepressant effect, through a combination of physical activities (like stretching, breathing, and relaxing) and mental activities (practicing mindfulness, stress management, and greater self-reflection).
Some methods are found to be effective despite an unknown mechanism of action, such as acupuncture. And some have both a physical and mental mechanism of action, like aromatherapy.
Seeking Holistic Therapy for Mental Health
Amend Treatment offers a variety of holistic therapies to clients looking to expand their treatment beyond traditional modalities and introduce a greater number of therapeutic methods into their treatment plans. Contact us to find out more about how we apply holistic therapy in our clients’ programs and how you might benefit.