The complex nature of human beings means that we all need channels to let out frustrated, angry, anxious, compulsive, obsessive and depressive thoughts that plague our subconscious and adversely affect our day to day lives. Finding viable channels to express and process these emotions enables us to restore calm and learn to deal with everyday situations that trigger our frequently biased responses and poor reflections of ourselves.
Alternative therapies differ from conventional psychological therapies (psychotherapy) in the sense that they are not cognitive skills taught by psychologists – They are mainly reasonably mundane activities that have a beneficial influence on wellbeing, including a person’s state of mind. Some entities offer alternative concepts as primary therapies for mental disorders. However, on their own, they are rarely effective for healing severe disorders. Some also deter patients, due to physical or other constraints.
Psychotherapy is the preferred treatment method of the health industry, judicial systems and general society for mental disorders and long-term stability. Nonetheless, some alternative remedies can be utilised as an adjunct or supplementary therapies in rehabilitation programmes and long-term relapse prevention.
In conventional psychotherapy (also known as talk-therapy), patients and therapists conduct face-to-face discussions about issues affecting the patient. During the discussions, the issues are explored in a direct and rational manner. However, some patients find it difficult to articulate their issues or to share it in a direct, confrontational situation.
Specialist psychotherapists can harness certain alternative therapies as supplementary techniques to evoke responses from a compromised patient by means of indirect communication. For instance; they can use a seemingly unrelated medium, such as art, to get patients to indirectly reveal insights about their emotions.
By interpreting and discussing, for example, a painting produced by a patient, rather than focusing directly on the patient, a therapist can prompt the patient to share intimate feelings in a more relaxed and confident manner. It can lay the foundation for direct, patient-focused discussions.
Supplemental therapies can also strengthen the impact of conventional therapy by exposing patients to diverse educational acts, such as role-playing and similar exercises. Patients tend to absorb more information when facts are presented in different ways, and the repetitions also reinforce memory retention.
In addition, supplementary therapies can actually help with the healing and long-term recovery process if it is appropriate and integrated into a personalised therapeutic programme.
Examples of Supplementary Alternatives
Known to help with healing of most disorders. Involves activities like painting, sketching, photography, colouring in, sculpting and clay modelling. Subjects that symbolise feelings or past experiences should be chosen. Specialist therapists can interpret a patient’s end-product and initiate stimulating discussions.
Involves enacting theatrical scenarios depicting emotional conflicts. Skilled therapists will note fine nuances during performances and pick up emotional sensitivities. May not be suitable for patients who are exceptionally shy, introverted or anxious. Acts can include:
- Staging a debate or argument between two patients, and then switching their points of view after a while. Role reversal teaches patients how to evaluate issues from different perspectives. Gives the therapist insight into how patients respond in different situations.
- A dramatised speech or poem presented by an individual patient, about personal experiences, feelings and expectations. The introspection required for preparation contributes to awareness and healing. (May seem impractical for patients who struggle with interaction, but some actually undergo dramatic change and become quite conversant when they deliver prepared presentations on stage.)
Patients are taught how to relax by performing focused exercises, such as meditation, breathing techniques and exercises that release tension from the muscles. The exercises also produce mental relaxation and enable people to cope with worrying thoughts. They are more inclined to talk to others, instead of silently brooding over negative thoughts.
Writing about problems is an alternative therapy known to contribute to healing. Some patients are not good talkers, but excellent writers. Even if writing skills are poor, the document will present a starting point for verbal communication. Therapists can initially provide leading questions and ask patients to comment on it with as much written detail as possible.
As a powerful mood modulator, music can be a healing tool. A music-loving patient can draw up a list of favourite compositions, or a musical instrument can be obtained for the patient to play. The mood of the music can launch discussions about what inspires it and the effects it has, and develop into a wider conversation.
An experiential activity that expresses mood through sound and movement. The combination of music and exercise is excellent for recovery. The patient’s choice of music and the type of dancing can spur a conversation about mood and expand from there.
Benefits of Supplementary Therapy
- Presentations can be explored to reveal pertinent information.
- Adds additional healing elements to conventional psychotherapy.
- Patients can learn how to evaluate problems from different angles.
- Presenting facts repetitively, and differently, embeds the knowledge.
- Patients can start hobbies they can continue with when they go home.
Most alternative therapies are beneficial, but a few are not recommended. One should obtain professional advice about alternative remedies before attempting it.