The Future of Psychiatry with Alternative Treatments

Alternative_Medicine2.jpgMainstream psychiatry is becoming more biology-based in practice and today uses medication as a major form of treatment. The problem with this, say some, is that psychiatric medication is dangerous or over-prescribed. Alternative medicine offers other therapeutic choices for people who are against biological psychiatry. What is alternative medicine, when applied to mental illness? This is indeed a perplexing question. The alternative methods of treatment for various types of mental illness include as many as 300 different therapies in this growing and diverse field, such as:

Accupunture, nutrition, spiritual activities, massage, yoga, chiropractic, reiki, counseling, ayurvedic and mind-body medicine (an ancient medical system from India), homeopathic medicine, reflexology, oxygen therapy, chelation, metal toxicity, biofeedback, imagery, self-hypnosis, meditation, therapeutic touch, correction of metabolic or hormone deficiencies; macrobiotics or a more natural organic chemical free diet; Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and so on.

How is the average person able to navigate the maze of alternative treatments and claims? Fortunately, psychiatry and alternative therapies don’t have to be either-or choices. The term “integrative psychiatry” describes a combined medical-alternative approach to psychiatry. “It is healing-oriented psychiatry that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit). It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.” (1) Most integrative psychiatrists use alternative medicine as an adjunct to psychiatric medications. In other words, they are meant to help reduce the dosage, not replace the medicine all together. But if a person is opposed to psychiatric medication, these specialists are available for guidance in which alternative treatments might best fit the individual need. Osteopathic Psychiatrists also offer alternative therapies, along the lines of mind-body healing. (Osteopathic Psychiatrists use structural diagnosis and manipulative therapy in addition to all other traditional forms of diagnosis and treatment.)

Integrative psychiatry is a holistic approach that uses both conventional and alternative therapies in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Personalized treatments are typically developed by practitioners to suit each person’s lifestyle and needs. But most integrative psychiatry practitioners agree in a contraindication for individuals with active suicidal thoughts or psychosis, who require a more intensive level of psychiatric care. (2)

“An Integrative Psychiatrist is attuned to the many dimensions that affect emotional distress and wellness. These dimensions include physical, emotional, interpersonal, behavioral, nutritional, environmental and spiritual elements.” (3)

Finding integrative psychiatry practitioners and alternative medicine providers is as easy as using the phone book or internet search engine. But the alternative treatments offered at each practice may differ widely. Some may use psychiatric medications and psychotherapy treatment in combination with a selection of alternative medicines, and others may not use psychiatric medications but will use other alternative methods. There are more choices are available than the average person seeking mental health treatment might believe.


  • Adrian von Bubenberg

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    Adrian von Bubenberg ECA

  • parityfanatic

    Having a family member with a significant mental illness for over 20 years, I am not negative to the concept of Integrative Psychiatry. However, I think the use of psychiatric medications many times is given a bad wrap.
    I believe strongly a combination of meds can be extremely helpful in difficult cases.
    The problem lies in the fact that finding the correct doses requires strict supervision. Supervision which could require weekly outpatient evaluation & in some cases an extended hospital admission.
    These serious mental illnesses require psychotherapy & psychiatric medicine management.
    My family member is progressing in the right direction. It has taken years
    of creative pharmacological treatment to help her progress.
    Mental illness is real illness; illness that warrants the same degree of treatment that heart or cancer patients require.
    I salute the 8.5 million Federal employees & their dependents who have full mental health insurance parity in their group insurance program ordered by the executive order of President William Clinton.
    I strongly believe you’ll find even more people progressing with serious mental illness when THEIR private health insurance permits & pays for first-rate mental illness care at the same benefit level as any other serious illness.
    We don’t walk away from seriously ill cancer or heart patients.
    Let’s refuse to accept second-rate mental health insurance coverage in the private sector. .

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  • Elise Stobbe

    I guess in my mind I meant that counseling is an alternative to psychiatric medication.

  • Great post! However, I have to object you putting “counseling” in the “alternative therapies” list since it is of equal prominence and scientific validation to much of traditional psychiatry, and has been a core component of psychiatric treatment since it’s inception. “Alternative treatments” implies a less scientifically based form of treatment.

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  • Anonymous

    i m taking alopathic medicine 4 last 10 years but in lieu of geting cured i m became addicted to those drugs,now i like to undergo alt treatment

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