Most of the time, when you think of therapy, you likely think of talk therapy — where a counselor and a patient sit down to discuss what's going on with the patient's mental health. While this mode of therapy, sometimes combined with medication, can be super helpful for many people who live with mental illness, it doesn't work for everyone; one 2015 study in the journal PLOS One found that found talk therapy is 25 percent less effective that previous research had stated. Because of this, some people are starting to turn to alternative therapies, like mind-body therapies, to help them manage their mental health.
In essence, mind-body therapies attempt to incorporate movement into traditional psychotherapy, though they are not a substitute for traditional therapy and medication. According to a recent review of the use of mind-body therapies for teens with anxiety, published in the journal The Nurse Practitioner, "Mind-body therapies encompass self-regulation and positive thinking [...] to help promote self-control, physical health, and emotional well-being."
Mental health disorders are accompanied by a wide array of symptoms — including a handful of physical ones. Many researchers are beginning to believe disorders like depression are caused in part by inflammation, and should be treated like any other physical illness. Meaning, utilizing movement and engaging your body in therapy can have a positive impact on your mental health and recovery. And while a mind-body therapy isn't necessarily a replacement for other kinds of therapy, you can ask your doctor if they think it might be beneficial to you. From yoga to biofeedback, here are nine therapies that incorporate mind and body — and how they can potentially help you.
Despite how it's portrayed in movies, hypnotherapy does not consist of a psychologist swinging a pocket watch back and forth in your face until you enter a zombie-like state. According to Psychology Today, during hypnotherapy, "a therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state, and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave." The Huffington Post reported studies have, so far, discovered the hypnotherapy is effective at relieving symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, sleep problems, and physical issues, such as chronic pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
As Harvard Health explained, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi is often referred to as "meditation in motion." Tai chi is comprised of slow-motion exercise, deep breathing, and easy-to-follow movements typically recited by an instructor. Though there are different types of tai chi, the Mayo Clinic explains the traditional form of exercise has been proven to boost your mood, and decrease feelings of depression and anxiety. Not to mention, tai chi can be incredibly helpful for a wide range of physical health issues, too.
Even if you only have five minutes to spare during a busy day, consider using that time to practice meditation. Mediation quite literally changes your brain — improving cognitive function, memory, and your ability to pay attention. NBC News reported that, as with yoga, studies show the practice of meditation leads to a decrease in stress, and can help your body release more feel-good hormones like oxytocin (aka, "the love hormone").
According to the website VeryWellMind, "Biofeedback is a mind-body technique that involves using visual or auditory feedback to gain control over involuntary bodily functions. This may include gaining voluntary control over such things as heart rate, muscle tension, blood flow, pain perception, and blood pressure."
In short, the goal of biofeedback is to give you insight into how you physically react to anxiety, trauma, or other mental health issues, so you can better control your physiological symptoms. This mind-body therapy has been scientifically proven to help relieve symptoms of PTSD, help people with ADHD focus, and reduce chronic physical pain associated with eating disorders, addiction, and depression.
Acupuncture, a mind-body practice that's part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has been utilized for thousands of years to treat both physical and mental health disorders. Acupuncture has been shown to release endorphins, positively alter mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin, and can slow down your stress response and nervous system.
Dance Or Movement Therapy
Dance/movement therapy aims to reconnect your mind and body through movement, and has been scientifically shown to help those in eating disorder recovery. What's more, the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) even reported that some trauma survivors turn to dance therapy "because [dance movement therapy] uses movement as the primary means of assessment and communication [...] Memories that may be too difficult to express verbally can be shared through movement and dissociated feelings."
Spinal Manipulation Or Chiropractic Adjustment
Though this mind-body therapy is less common than the others, Healthline reports that, "spinal manipulation, also called spinal manipulative therapy or manual therapy, combines moving and jolting joints, massage, exercise, and physical therapy." Studies have shown spinal manipulation can ease lower back pain as well as headaches; limited research has also suggested it the therapeutic practice can improve your mental wellbeing.
Everyone knows that massage therapy can be physically relaxing, but science shows the benefits go beyond your body: As the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reported, "Recent research suggests that symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression may be positively affected with massage therapy." In particular, massage therapy has been proven to be a helpful tool for people with headaches, chronic pain, and fibromyalgia.
Mind-body therapies can be helpful when it comes to improving your physical and mental health. Just be sure to always check that the teacher or practitioner is certified in their respective therapy, and check in with your primary therapist to make sure these complementary therapies are helpful for you. Whether you are dealing with mental health issues, physical illness, or both, science shows techniques that incorporate your mind and body can be overwhelmingly good for you.