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Alternative Therapies

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Alternative Therapies

What if we told you that scheduling that massage for yourself or running out to shop with a friend could be as effective as allopathic medicine? Well, they can be! Alternative therapies include a variety of modalities that can be used instead of standard medical treatments in the United States.

  • What are alternative therapies?
  • What are examples of alternative therapies?
  • What are complementary and alternative therapies?

Alternative Therapy Definition

Alternative therapy denotes an all-inclusive range of therapies that can benefit people with multiple conditions--from minor anxiety to more serious diseases such as cancer, and everything in between.

What is Alternative Therapy?

Alternative therapy is often used in place of, or with traditional medicine and therapy. Alternative therapies can be helpful and useful in treating patients or clients who would like to try holistic healing, especially in pain management. However, the drawbacks can include not receiving the necessary medical treatment in life-threatening circumstances (Astin, 1998). Also, alternative therapy requires work and effort for people who decide to take this route.

Alternative Therapy Essential Oils are a recognised part of alternative therapies StudySmarterEssential oils, pixabay.com

Types of Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies cover a wide range of modalities that are usually non-invasive. Some of the most popular types of alternative therapies are listed below.

Yoga

Yoga is a form of exercise that helps people practice mindfulness and achieve a deeper level of flexibility. Yoga has been practiced since ancient times but has since been modernized. The amazing benefits of yoga are not only physical but psychological too. Yoga aims to bring the body and mind together to achieve a deeper sense of self and to better control our emotions through each stretch and pose.

Meditation

Meditation is an alternative therapy that may seem uncomfortable at first, as we rarely allow ourselves to sit and be bored with no distractions. However, meditation gives us time to slow down and focus on our breathing. Someone who meditates may also be trying to achieve mindfulness and gain a deeper sense of self. It is often practiced by sitting in an upright position in a quiet space while focusing on breathing. Meditation can be practiced for a few minutes or hours each day.

What is mindfulness? It can be explained as being present in our bodies and minds without focusing on the past or future. It is believed that mindfulness can be achieved through relaxation and breathing practices.

Massage Therapy

By stimulating the various muscles in the body, a massage therapist may be able to reduce stress in clients. By reducing stress and anxiety, a person that receives a massage should also be able to sleep better and feel generally relaxed. The feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin are stimulated and released through this type of alternative therapy.

Reiki

Reiki is a traditional Japanese form of energy work that involves hand healing. A Reiki practitioner may offer hands-on or hands-off healing by gently placing their hands on or above the client's body. Reiki is often performed from a person's head to their toes as they are lying down. A client may feel tingling, an overwhelming feeling of emotions, pure relaxation; or in some cases, nothing.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is achieved through the use of essential oils. Some people choose to use them in a diffuser, on their skin, or even sometimes internally. Of course not every oil can be taken internally, but some are in fact effective dietary supplements. Oftentimes, aromatherapy is used in combination with other forms of alternative therapies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses a variety of techniques to achieve wellness in the body. Acupuncture is a form of TCM that involves stimulating the body by inserting thin needles in energy points to improve one's overall well-being. Herbal medicine is also used to control, treat, and prevent illnesses in the body. Psychologically speaking, herbs are believed to improve depression, anxiety, and mental illnesses alike. Cupping is also another form of healing for relaxation that is done by placing small suction cups strategically on someone's back.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis isn't exactly like what you see in the movies, but is done through the practitioner talking and putting the client into a deep trance. This alternative therapy is effective for people struggling to break habits, and who may have minor mental health issues. Hypnotherapy can actually be dangerous if someone has a severe mental illness.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is now on the rise and becoming a more accepted form of therapy. People often use art such as paintings, writing, poems, and more to tell a story or display their thoughts and emotions. This therapeutic modality can be done alone, or by working with a certified art therapist to maximize benefits.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for our feelings of pleasure and achievement. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and hormone that influences our moods and emotions.

Examples of Alternative Therapy

Let's go over a few examples of alternative therapy that someone may use to reduce stress or promote relaxation and wellness in their daily lives.

  • Jessica is stressed out; she has been experiencing extreme anxiety due to everyday life tasks. Jessica decides to set some time aside for herself on the weekend to attend a meditation and yoga retreat. She finds that slowing down and focusing on her breathing through yoga movements has significantly reduced her stress levels. After the retreat, Jessica attends yoga classes weekly to maintain a healthy level of wellness.

  • Thomas is the CEO of a very successful company. He has poured an endless amount of time and work effort into the company by working over 70 hours per week. Thomas has neglected his at-home life for far too long, which has left him divorced and alone. Thomas has recently decided to incorporate massage therapy into his weekly routine to reduce some of the stress he is feeling. Since getting a weekly massage, Thomas feels more focused and relaxed at home and in the workplace.

  • Carl focuses on exercising at least three times per week, but still has trouble sleeping in the evenings. They decide that they would like to enhance their wellness routine by incorporating aromatherapy. Carl wants to start small, so they purchase three essential oils and a diffuser to gain benefits while they are sleeping. After doing some research online, they decide that lavender, peppermint, and chamomile are perfect for them. After using aromatherapy for a few weeks, Carl has noticed their sleep patterns have significantly improved.

  • Jen is an aspiring artist that has always found trouble expressing her emotions. Through a recent class, Jen learned that she can paint her emotions and feelings. By doing this, Jen has created a healthy pattern to release built-up stress that has accumulated over time. Jen is now consistently using art therapy as a way to influence and help other people who have trouble expressing their emotions.

  • Sidney is a 30-year-old patient that has been recently diagnosed with leukemia. During her first treatment, she became severely ill. Her doctors have recommended the use of alternative therapies to enhance her overall well-being. Sidney has implemented a wellness plan by joining a meditation group and incorporating herbal medicine to help her mental well-being. The doctor has noticed a significant positive uptick in Sidney's mental health and attitude.

Alternative Therapy A woman sitting in a yoga pose StudySmarterYoga can be an effective alternative therapy, pixabay.com

Evaluating Alternative Therapies

Depending on the professional, doctor, therapist, or psychologist, alternative therapy offerings may vary. Alternative therapies are not always a quick fix or solution to every problem, but they can be effective, especially if offered alongside traditional medicine and therapy.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Welcome to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)! Complementary means that these treatments are used with existing methods in modern medicine, while alternative means that the treatments are used instead of the methods of modern medicine. Five recognized forms of CAM therapy cover hundreds of modalities (Koithan, 2009).

Biologically-Based Therapy

Biologically-based therapy uses holistic practices, keeping in mind all things used are found outdoors. Different herbs, fruits, vegetables are all used in this form of therapy. Diet might be something that is adjusted if someone is using a biologically-based therapy.

Energy Therapy

Energy therapy is not backed by much scientific evidence. However, it is said that energy therapy can be done through the palms of a healer's hands. Reiki and light therapy are common forms of energy therapies.

Manipulative/Body-based Therapy

Manipulative and body-based therapy is when the patient's or client's body is being moved by the therapist or practitioner. Massage and chiropractor visits are two popular examples of manipulative body-based therapy.

Mind-body Therapy

Mind-body therapy is used to create a greater overall sense of well-being and to connect with oneself. Meditation, mindfulness techniques, and yoga are all examples of mind-body therapy. However, the mind-body therapies are not always used spiritually, but to promote a great sense of relaxation.

Whole Medical Systems/Alternative Medical Systems

Whole alternative medical systems differ from the standard traditional western medicine that is used in the United States. For example, Chinese traditional medicine as cited above uses acupuncture, cupping, and herbs to treat patients. Another example is Ayurvedic medicine (a system of traditional Indian medicine), which also aims to use spices, elements, and herbs to treat conditions.

Alternative Therapy a patient getting a massage StudySmarterMassage therapy, pixabay.com

Alternative Therapies - Key takeaways

  • Alternative therapies can be used instead of, or in alignment with, modern medicine.
  • Energy therapy is done through reiki and light therapy.
  • Manipulative and body-based therapy are achieved through massage or chiropractic visits.
  • Mind-body therapy uses anything to achieve mindfulness, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Mindfulness is being present in our bodies and minds without focusing on the past or future.
  • Other whole medical systems include traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda.

References

  1. Astin JA. "Why Patients Use Alternative Medicine: Results of a National Study." JAMA. 1998;279(19):1548–1553. doi:10.1001/jama.279.19.1548
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by the American Public. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2005. 1, Introduction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK83804/
  3. Koithan M. (2009). "Introducing Complementary and Alternative Therapies." The journal for nurse practitioners: JNP, 5(1), 18–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2008.10.012

Frequently Asked Questions about Alternative Therapies

An all-inclusive range of therapies that can benefit people with multiple conditions. Alternative therapy is usually used in place of or with traditional medicine and therapy.

Yoga, meditation, massage therapy, reiki, aromatherapy, traditional Chinese medicine, art therapy, and hypnosis are all great examples of alternative therapies.

Alternative therapies are used in psychology to reduce stress and anxiety in patients.

Massage therapy is an alternative therapy that is considered a manipulative/body-based therapy.

Alternative therapies can be helpful and useful in treating patients or clients who would like to try holistic healing, especially in pain management. However, the drawbacks could include not receiving the necessary medical treatment in life-threatening circumstances. Also, alternative therapy requires work and effort. 

Final Alternative Therapies Quiz

Question

An all-inclusive range of therapies that can benefit people with multiple conditions:

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Answer

Alternative therapy

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Question

Therapy that is used in alignment with traditional medicine:

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Answer

Complementary therapy

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Question

Alternative therapies are used to reduce ______ and ______.


Show answer

Answer

Anxiety, stress

Show question

Question

Therapy that involves stretching and can increase flexibility. 

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Answer

Yoga

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What type of therapy revolves around mindfulness?

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Answer

Mind-body therapies (yoga, meditation)

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What feel-good hormones are released during massage therapy?

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Answer

Dopamine and serotonin

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Question

What are three techniques used in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

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Answer

Cupping, herbal medicine, acupuncture

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Therapy that uses writing or painting to display emotions.

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Answer

Art therapy

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Question

If someone is struggling to create a wellness routine, what are some steps they can take?

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Answer

1) Find what they enjoy

2) Set aside time for relaxation

3) Use therapeutic practices daily

Show question

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Being present in our bodies without focusing on the past or future:

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Answer

Mindfulness

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Question

Examples of whole medical systems.

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Answer

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine

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Question

A neurotransmitter that is responsible for our feelings of pleasure and achievement:

Show answer

Answer

Dopamine

Show question

Question

What is serotonin?

Show answer

Answer

A neurotransmitter and hormone that influences our moods and emotions.

Show question

Question

Who can benefit from alternative therapy?

Show answer

Answer

Anyone

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Question

What is a major drawback for people that practice alternative therapy?

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Answer

They might dismiss serious medical issues that need modern medical treatment.

Show question

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