Alternative Therapies for Mental Health: Benefits of Art Therapy, Equine Therapy, and More
There’s more to effective mental health therapy than individual and group counseling.
Alternative and complementary therapies can provide all sorts of benefits for individuals in treatment. In particular, the use of holistic methods like art therapy, equine therapy, music therapy, and others can increase relaxation and well-being, all while providing additional coping tools for maintaining recovery outside of mental health treatment programs. Some alternative therapies might even open up new pathways in the brain.
Keep reading to learn about some of the most popular alternative therapies for mental health, including how they can aid in the treatment of mental health disorders.
Types of Complementary Therapies in Mental Health Care
Modern mental health treatment is based on the idea that it takes a multi-faceted approach to enact true wellness. This typically includes the use of both medication and varying types of psychotherapy. More and more, this also includes complementary therapies that help manage symptoms and promote holistic healing.
Here are five alternative therapies for mental health with proven benefits for those in treatment.
Animals have a unique way of connecting with our mind, body, and spirit. And research shows they might even be able to assist in emotional regulation and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Equine therapy for anxiety and other mental disorders has become a common animal-assisted technique. Individuals engage with horses, including care and grooming, and in doing so, many experience marked improvements in their behavioral and mental well-being.
The benefits of equine therapy are still being studied, but research suggests that horses have an acute sensitivity to human emotions and are able to connect with individuals on meaningful levels. Risks are rare, though the physical nature of equine therapy and the potential for injury should be considered when deciding to pursue this type of alternative therapy.
Art Healing Therapy
Many can attest to the benefits of art therapy. Artistic endeavors like painting, drawing, and sculpting are thought to activate key parts of the brain, repairing damage and rewiring circuitry to promote healing in new ways. Art therapy may even be able to regulate the emotional response to stressful stimuli, all while enhancing an individual’s sense of self-expression and awareness.
The versatility of art therapy is another reason that this complementary technique has become increasingly common in mental health treatment. From writing to photography, there are so many types of art to engage in – and so many opportunities for individuals to find the medium that speaks to their emotional needs.
With gardening therapy, patients are provided with individual plots to nurture or contribute to a shared garden. Aside from the general benefits of connecting with the earth, gardening provides routine and structure during a time of tough transition, all while promoting relaxation, mindfulness, and a sense of accomplishment.
Like other holistic therapies, gardening also has the benefit of being something that individuals can continue when they go home. Gardening therapy in mental health centers teaches useful skills for maintaining the practice and can be a fantastic introduction to the basics of garden care and planning.
The benefits of music therapy mirror those of art therapy, with a few added perks. Most notably, there are profound physical benefits of music therapy that can be difficult to replicate in other ways. Among them rhythmic grounding and the development of sound-focused breathing techniques.
Its physical nature makes music therapy especially useful for regulating mood and emotional expression, as well as reducing stress. Like other alternative therapies, it’s also well-suited to daily life. Individuals in treatment can use certain songs or sounds to decrease cortisol levels in the body, in turn mitigating the fight or flight response that can lead to distress and unwanted behaviors.
Last up is a class of holistic therapies focused on the mind-body connection, among them yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
These practices may be recommended in the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions and can help with relaxation and release of symptoms.
Individuals are often advised to maintain these practices outside of treatment and in conjunction with medication and/or psychotherapy. Many find the best results in making mind-body practices part of their day-to-day recovery, with set routines integrated into their morning, day, or evening schedules.
Discover New Pathways to Healing
Whether it’s equine therapy for anxiety, yoga for substance use disorder, or any other holistic technique, alternative therapies can be instrumental in supporting long-term wellness.
At Synergy Health Programs, we offer complementary therapies as part of our outpatient and residential programs. Please contact us to learn about personalized treatment plans and how holistic therapies can be an effective tool in mental health recovery.