For many of us, cultivating wellness of both body and mind is a crucial part of modern life. But it’s not always an easy process, and outside assistance may be necessary, especially for those who are living with some type of mental health condition like depression or an anxiety disorder.
In the 21st century, therapy has become a vital wellness tool around the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 19% of U.S. adults received mental health treatment in 2019, including various forms of therapy. Arguably the most well-known therapeutic branch is psychotherapy, which typically involves a patient discussing their problems with a licensed therapist or similar professional.
Also known as talk therapy, psychotherapy is a tried-and-true method that offers numerous benefits. Yet it may not be the answer for every patient, or every condition. The healing process is a deeply personal endeavor, and no two therapy journeys look the same. To achieve complete mind and body wellness, you may need to seek out alternatives to traditional psychotherapy, such as music therapy and/or wilderness therapy.
Therapeutic Alternatives in the Time of Pandemic
It’s important to note that, for thousands of years, therapy in one form or another has been performed in face-to-face settings. Under the continued threat of COVID-19, however, remote therapy has become rather ubiquitous among patients with mental health disorders as well as those struggling with addiction. In fact, telehealth is effectively opening up the world of remote therapy, allowing greater access for all patients when they need it the most.
Telehealth is an especially promising option in outpatient recovery settings, helping to fill in gaps of care related to limited in-person access. Even under shelter-in-place orders, recovering addicts can meet with their counselors and attend treatment groups, using telehealth technology. And that’s only the beginning when it comes to the potential applications of telehealth in the realm of holistic wellness.
The potential of telehealth to help fuel the remote therapy revolution is virtually limitless, encompassing various forms of alternative therapy in addition to psychotherapy and recovery treatment. Whether it's done remotely or in person, you may find healing via various forms of alternative therapy, including the following.
Interestingly, music therapy is one of the oldest forms of healing known to man. The practice is thought to have originated in ancient Greece. Notable philosophers including Plato and Aristotle would recommend particular musical compositions to their ailing patients, tailored to individual symptoms. For example, those experiencing manic episodes were “prescribed” daily doses of calming flute music to help relax the mind.
In modern times, data even backs up the efficacy of music therapy among patients from all walks of life. Therapists at The Music School of Delaware, for example, use music as a healing tool for patients living with a wide range of conditions, from autism and post-traumatic stress disorder to developmental disabilities and substance abuse. Music therapy can be used in tandem with other forms of remote treatment.
Some forms of alternative therapy don’t translate as easily to a remote environment, however. For example, animal-assisted therapy is primarily performed in face-to-face settings, at least where the animals themselves are concerned. And while there is plenty of work involved in the training process, the benefits of animal-assisted therapy are myriad.
Like music therapy, animal-assisted therapy is designed to enhance an existing treatment plan. Depending on the patient’s condition and lifestyle, therapy that involves animals may look quite different among individuals. Horseback riding may prove to be the perfect healing tool for those with physical disabilities, while an emotional support animal (ESA) can help calm racing thoughts and anxiety among PTSD patients and domestic abuse survivors. Even the simple act of owning a cat has been shown to reduce loneliness and depression.
In general, animal-assisted therapies help keep patients active, boosting mood over the long term, but adventure therapy takes that concept to another level. Adventure therapy is closely related to wilderness therapy, in which nature itself provides a healing environment far removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Yet you may not even need to go outside to reap the benefits of adventure therapy, wherein taking risks is the backbone of the therapeutic experience.
Under the supervision of a trained mental health professional, adventure therapy patients are challenged on numerous levels: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Some of the most popular forms of adventure therapy include hiking, swimming, rock climbing, and camping. Because many patients can participate in a single adventure therapy session, it’s an ideal way to strengthen interpersonal relationships and is often used in couples therapy.
By taking good care of your mind and body, you’re essentially investing in your future wellbeing. And there’s no shame in asking for help, whether you can’t shake prolonged feelings of loneliness or depression, or you hope to overcome a substance abuse disorder. Alternative therapies that incorporate music, animals, and/or nature into your treatment plan may be the key to greater mind and body wellness in a world shrouded in pandemic-related uncertainty.