While the jury is still out on
why, it’s pretty clear that mental illness is on the rise in the United States in recent years. Titles like " The Meteoric Rise of Mental Illness in America and Implications for Other Countries" and " The Alarming Rise in Teen Mental Illness" blare at us from social media and news outlets. Mass shooting after mass shooting is attributed to individual mental health problems, rather than structural societal ones. The opioid epidemic barrels forward, with no sign of stopping. And, at the same time, a recent CDC study found that despite increases in serious mental distress, access to mental health services are on the decline.
So what do you do if you’re suffering from depression, but your insurance doesn’t cover therapy? Or what about when you start having debilitating anxiety attacks, but you don’t even
have insurance? Or what if you’ve tried traditional therapy but it doesn’t seem to work for you and your particular ailments? One answer: Find alternative types of therapy.
“Alternative” therapy just refers to anything that isn’t traditional talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. (You, know — the image of sitting down in a room with a therapist and talking about your feelings.) It can include working with a professional or can simply be an activity that helps people manage their minds, feelings, and symptoms. While traditional therapy has been and continues to be a great resource for people dealing with mental health issues and trauma, it’s not available to or not the right fit for plenty of people.
With that in mind, here are nine people who use different types of alternative therapy, and why they love it.
1 Arielle, 27: Dance
"I suffer from pretty intense derealization and dissociation and find that dance is one of the only modalities to really help get me back into my body. When I stay consistent, I find it's really helpful. I've been off the wagon for a bit and notice my symptoms intensify when I haven't danced in a while. By just having a few moments of tapping back into my body and myself, I find that I don't get as anxious or nervous when I'm floating above myself the rest of the day, because I have a point of reference to come back to.
I just recently started getting back into traditional therapy, which is definitely helpful but doesn't alleviate any symptoms. It's been a great way to focus on the specific issues I want to work on and make me feel like I'm doing everything I can to get better, but it doesn't necessarily help me get better."
2 Anonymous: Trauma Sensitive Yoga
trauma sensitive yoga to incorporate therapy and healing into my physical body once I had gotten to that stage in my recovery. Yes, I am still doing both [traditional and alternative therapy]. I find the combination of "traditional" and "alternative" to be the most effective, rather than one or the other." 3 Irene, 40: Somatic Experiencing Therapy
"[I chose this form of therapy] because trauma is stored in the body and cannot be released by talking about it.
Somatic Experiencing works with the nervous system to release stuck energy from a past nervous system activation (when we were unable to fight/flee or froze) that did not get discharged (nervous system was not allowed to calm down), thereby creating a new balanced, relaxed and calm normal.
Somatic Experiencing helped me release pent up anger and regulate my nervous system, releasing most triggers that would have created anxiety in the past. I have done traditional therapy and coaching before and it helped to a point — but it did not go deep enough within the body, so I had outbursts of anger and anxiety that I did not know were coming from or how to manage them."
4 Genya: Reiki
"I found a therapist who is
also a reiki practitioner, so she offers both talk therapy and reiki for my anxiety. And since she’s an LMHC my insurance covers our visits. I love it! It’s an amazing option for dealing with stress and anxiety. When I’m having trouble slowing down to process complex emotions, it’s a great tool." 5 Emma, 31: Acupuncture Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
started acupuncture as treatment for a hormone imbalance, but I found that talking about the different things that are affecting my energy each week has been as therapeutic as — if not more than — the needles themselves. I’ve done traditional therapy in the past but the thought of finding a therapist right now exhausts me. Starting acupuncture felt like a much lower barrier to entry." 6 Chris, 45: Biking Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"I hate all people. You know, pretty much. [I chose biking because] it's biking. Ipso facto, it is awesome. Did couples counseling once. Meh. People are really really really stupid and there's just no substitute for good ol' introspection."
7 Michael, 43: 5 Rhythms And Ecstatic Dance
by Gabrielle Roth. It's an effective and fun way to process through emotions via movement. And the community is amazing, all over the world. I have not done traditional therapy, but am familiar with it. The model isn't my style." Maps to Ecstasy 8 Alex, 30: Meditation, Self-Help Books
"[I chose this type of therapy because] I feel like it is more on my time. I like that I'm not expecting anything of anyone else, even a therapist... I know from the outside it looks great. I'm positive that I'm checking lots of societal boxes, but I’m not sure I'm doing all I want to. No, I know I’m not. I want a lot."
9 D, 31: Meditation Community
"[I found this type of therapy] through my family. It is a beautiful and supportive community that encourages me to change how I view, react to, and accept circumstances instead of constantly thinking something is 'wrong' with me. I still do [traditional therapy]. But meds weren't doing it. I needed to change how I saw the world instead of hoping a pill a day might completely save me from traumatic past".
There you have it — nine people and the type of alternative therapy that they use. When it comes to treating a mental health issue, there's clearly no one-size-fits-all answer. The most important thing is that you find something that works for you.
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