In Balance — Complementary therapies for mental healthcare

June 1, 2017

By Aleisha Anderson

Mental healthcare is in high demand and gaining more attention through mainstream media. Knowing the depth of care options available can substantially improve the healing process.

Medications have become the most common approach to treating anxiety and depression. Treatment may also include psychotherapy (talk therapy). In some cases, psychotherapy alone may be the best treatment option. What matters most is that a treatment plan is based on one’s individual needs and that they are under the care of a mental health professional.

When medication is the primary treatment plan for anxiety or depression, it is important to remember that a large number of patients experience a varied degree of side effects with commonly prescribed antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotic medications.

Finding the right medication and dosage can take time. When working with a psychiatrist to fine-tune medications, the trial and error period can range from uncomfortable to debilitating.

It is time to seek complementary therapies when regular activities of daily living are being compromised due to medication side effects that are severe enough to change  the quality of life. Establishing a routine with support therapies such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, reiki, and yoga can help manage discomforts associated with a medication’s side effects.

For some, it is enough to take a prescription and work with a psychotherapist. When that is not the case, seeking additional support can create drastic improvements in physical and emotional health.

Holistic complementary therapies treat the mind, body, and spirit as one entity. Employing such therapies can integrate mental health complaints and physical symptoms into one treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine, for example, considers emotional imbalances equal to physical imbalances, and even relates emotional trauma as a potential root cause of lingering psycho-emotional and physical discomforts. By addressing the root of physical and emotional complaints, the main symptoms of disorder will begin to resolve. When combining this type of therapy with pharmacotherapy, an individual may feel some initial relief and ultimately gain an increased sense of well being without the need to increase medication dosages.

Another phase of pharmacotherapy that requires extra care is the medication tapering-off and elimination period. When an individual decides it is time to lower the dose of a particular medication, that is a crucial time to follow a plan and to seek complementary therapies to support discomforts and rebounds associated with that particular medication. A holistic approach to healing may eventually replace medications but not until a person has reached a stable state of mind and has successfully overcome those difficulties that led to medication in the first place.

If there is discomfort that persists for several weeks when beginning or tapering off medication, complementary therapies may improve those symptoms significantly. Severe reactions may require some continuity of care and one may decide it is best to continue using complementary therapies alongside traditional pharmaceuticals to support a more comfortable quality of life.

Mental healthcare saves lives. Our culture is loaded with stress and what we expect from ourselves can be overwhelming to the point of illness. When depression and/or anxiety start affecting personality, sleep, appetite, and physical wellbeing, please talk to someone and seek help. If there is no one to call or you are afraid of confiding in a friend, the COPE hotline, 262-377-2673, can provide immediate assistance.

Bay View resident Aleisha Anderson, L.Ac., is the clinic director and acupuncturist at Mke MindBody Wellness, an integrative wellness center with holistic therapies focused on mental health.  More information:

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only.  It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

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