Mental health awareness and treatment have changed dramatically over the last few years, with the pandemic bringing more awareness to holistic healing and the importance of the mind-body connection. This has led to an increase in holistic therapy approaches that focus on treating the whole person, not just their symptoms. In this article, we will discuss the different types of therapies available today, why you should consider holistic therapy, and how to find a good therapist.
Mental health and how far we’ve come
Mental health has come a long way in awareness, acceptance, and treatment. In the early 1900s, there were still many misconceptions about mental illness and how to treat it. Mental health was often seen as a weakness, and people were institutionalized and treated inhumanely. In the mid-1900s, there was more of an emphasis on medical treatment, and therapy became more mainstream. However, mental illness was still heavily stigmatized. It wasn’t until recently that mental health started to be taken seriously as a real illness that should be treated with care and compassion. This is thanks to the work of many advocates who have fought for better understanding and treatment. Today, there is still much work to be done in terms of destigmatization and treatment, but we have come a long way from where we started.
Depression and anxiety disorder has always been a global issue, and when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, worldwide lockdown and social distancing resulted in a significant increase in mental health cases. According to the World Health Organization, depression and anxiety increased 25% since the start of the pandemic, with cases continuing to rise, solidifying the seriousness of mental health, and the importance of treatment and overall wellness. This has led to a greater focus on holistic health, which takes into account the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Holistic therapy approaches have become more popular as people seek ways to cope with stress and anxiety post-pandemic. There are many different types of holistic therapies, with common ones including yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, and meditation. These therapies can be used alone or in combination with conventional therapy. To understand holistic therapies and their unique approach to treating mental health, it’s best to first examine some common conventional therapy treatments.
7 Common Types of Therapy Approaches
Conventional therapy or psychotherapy can be broadly categorized into seven main approaches, each used to treat common mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts and behaviours by recognizing distorted thinking patterns, learning coping skills, and understanding the actions of others and yourself. The focus is on the present problems and how to move forward, not dissecting the past.
- Psychodynamic Therapy: Psychodynamic therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on exploring the unconscious mind to get a better understanding of feelings and thoughts to promote self-reflection and growth.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT is a type of therapy that focuses on relationships and communication to improve social functioning. It’s usually limited to 12-16 weeks and looks at current relationship and communication problems instead of past or childhood issues.
- Counselling: Counseling is a type of therapy that focuses on providing support and guidance to help clients identify problems, find solutions, and work towards life goals. It provides the client with a comfortable space to express and reflect on current and past issues to gain clarity on how to cope and resolve them.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR): EMDR is a type of therapy that uses eye movements to help people process and heal from trauma. It’s usually used in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by briefly focusing on the traumatic memory to facilitate proper processing, so emotions associated with the memory are stored and handled in a way where it becomes less problematic for the client.
- Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that helps people confront their fears in a safe and controlled environment. Just like it’s name, it encourages clients to expose themselves to their fears in a systemic way to overtime reduce the fearful reaction. It has been shown to be highly effective for anxiety disorders.
- Mentalization-Based therapy (MBT): MBT is a simple and common-sense type of therapy used for people with a borderline personality disorder. It helps people understand and regulate their emotions and thoughts to help them gain a better sense of self, and maintain relationships with others.
As you can see, there are many different types of therapy approaches, each with its own focus, but all targeting purely mental processes to change current thoughts and beliefs. While all of these approaches can be effective, holistic therapy takes a different approach.
How Holistic Therapy is different
What is Holistic Therapy? Holistic therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Just like conventional psychotherapy, it can be used to treat conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress, but instead of focusing on a problem with a narrow focus, it has a broad “whole person” perspective that considers all aspects of the self for treatment. For example, instead of focusing on a person’s emotional reactions and thinking patterns, holistic therapy operates from the belief that the mind and body are connected, and therefore uses body movement, deep breathing, making art, or guided meditation to alleviate the issues and gain a better understanding of self.
Holistic therapies have become popular as more people are seeking effective alternatives to conventional therapy and medications.
Types of Holistic Approaches for Mental Health
Holistic therapy is an umbrella term for different types of techniques that are also commonly used in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods.
These methods help clients gain a better understanding of the different aspects of self and promote a deeper level of overall wellbeing due to the interconnected nature of the approach. Common approaches include:
This is a holistic approach that uses guided hypnotic suggestion to induce a trance-like state to facilitate relaxation, focus, and concentration. It facilitates access to the subconscious mind to better understand underlying thoughts, or modify beliefs to change unwanted symptoms or behaviour such as smoking cessation, weight loss, anxiety, or pain.
Art or creative Therapy
Art therapy is both a holistic approach and a type of psychotherapy that uses art or other creative activities to help people express their emotions and thoughts. Asides from drawing and sculpture, art therapy can also include dance therapy, music therapy, writing, and drama. This approach is most beneficial for those who have a difficult time verbalizing their thoughts and emotions, and need an outlet for expression.
This holistic approach uses spirituality to help people find meaning and purpose in their lives and to manage grief and loss. Most people associate spirituality with religion, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s really more about connecting to something greater than oneself and finding balance and peace with life. Many spiritual therapists also focus on the mind and body and utilize other methods in therapy such as hypnosis, existential questioning, and meditation.
Meditation is a form of practice that uses techniques to achieve a calm, balanced, clear, and stable mind. It often requires being mindful of your emotions and thoughts and training them to achieve a higher state of focus and awareness. Meditation has been practised for thousands of years in many cultures and religions all over the world. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of meditation in alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, as well as improving concentration, coping skills, improving sleep, blood pressure, pain, and other ailments.
Energy healing is a practice that involves channelling healing energy from the Universal source to the body to achieve healing and balance by removing energy blocks. Popular types of energy healing techniques include acupuncture, Reiki, tapping, and Thai massage. Although many consider it to be pseudo-science, it is actually rooted in the scientific fact that everything is made up of energy including our physical bodies, down to our cells. Energy healing works with the belief that physical, emotional, and psychological traumas can block or deplete energy, which can manifest into physical ailments and disorders. Energy healers work to correct these imbalances by facilitating flow of energy throughout the body.
Other Mind-Body Approaches
These techniques focus on physical treatment to heal the mind, utilizing the mind-body connection for treatment.
- Massage Therapy
- Somatic Therapy
- Movement (ex. Exercise, Yoga, Tai Chi)
Benefits of Holistic Therapy
Since holistic therapy is a whole-person approach to healing, it also has additional benefits asides from treating mental health issues. The benefits of holistic therapy include:
- Well-rounded, whole-person healing: Holistic healing can help you see connections between different parts of self and how they affect your health and wellbeing. With the mind-body approach, healing usually affects more than one aspect of the self. This can promote self-awareness and growth in more areas than just your mental health.
- Proactive than reactive: Although holistic therapies can be used for treatment, because of its focus on the whole person, it can also be used to prevent illness from occurring or getting worse. This means it is a more proactive approach than reactive, helping the mind and body not just heal, but also get stronger and function at their peak.
- Helps establish Healthy habits: Since holistic therapies often promote prevention as well as treatment, it can help you develop good daily habits to address problems before they affect daily functioning or require more invasive therapy.
- Unique or Specialized Skillset: Since holistic therapies can encompass a broad range of specializations, it’s usually easier to find a therapist with specialized skills that can address specific challenges or issues, and can personalize your therapy to your specific situation and preference. This may be more difficult to find when working with a conventional therapist.
- Fills the gaps in Conventional Therapy: Holistic therapy can be used with conventional medicine for an integrative approach that uses the best of both practices. Utilization of both conventional medicine and holistic therapy can result in quicker and sustained recovery as each approach complements the other, filling in the gaps where needed.
How to find the Right Therapist
There are many types of therapists including psychiatrists, psychologists, and counsellors, each with their own specialization and different approach. A psychiatrist for example has a medical background and can prescribe medication whereas psychologists can have a background in research, and counsellors in talk therapy. Here are a few things to look for when searching for the best fit therapist for you:
- Licensing and Credentials: Make sure your therapist has gone through the proper training and education by checking licensing and certifications. Some will require a license from your State and Country in order to see you, while others have more flexible requirements.
- Relevant Experience: Look for a therapist who has experience treating people with similar conditions, and look for verified reviews and testimonials.
- Specialization and Focus: Make sure the therapist uses an approach that you’re comfortable with or open to trying.
- Approach and fit: Finding the right therapist is usually more than just merits on a resume. Personality, approach, and communication styles are just as important as qualifications. The best way to gauge the therapist-client fit is to schedule a quick intro call or ask friends, family or your doctor for referrals.
Working with a therapist and healing can take some time and commitment, so finding the right therapist is an important decision. Remember that therapy is not a one size fits all approach and what works for someone else may not work for you. The most important thing is to find a therapist you feel comfortable with and trust to get the most out of your time and money.
If you’re considering holistic therapy, Nexia Wellness is a great place to start. The Nexia Wellness platform is a marketplace of holistic health practitioners that showcases a variety of specialists all in one place. This makes it easy to sort through, find, and connect with potential therapists to find the one that best suits your needs and unique self. You can work with a professional in-person or virtually via online sessions, and scheduling your free complimentary session for each potential practitioner is as easy as pressing a button and choosing your date and time.
In the last few years, mental health has emerged out of the unspoken shadows and into the light with increased awareness and recognition of it’s importance in overall health. After the pandemic, more people have turned to holistic and integrative approaches to deal with the anxiety and depression that have become as widespread and even more resistant than the virus itself. Holistic therapy can bridge the gap between conventional psychotherapy and overall wellness, helping us overcome the lingering effects of the pandemic and lifting us away from bad lifestyle habits that we knew we needed to change but never got around to. Nexia Wellness is a brand new platform that has responded to the call for something more than conventional medicine. The platform facilitates connections between qualified holistic practitioners and clients looking for more personalization with treatment through a whole-person approach.