Traditional talk therapy can be effective if you have a knowledgeable and professional therapist specialized in your conditions and circumstances. But talk therapy might not be for everyone or they might not even be able to access it. Continue reading to learn various alternatives to traditional talk therapy you can utilize for your mental health needs.
If you’ve been through childhood abuse or trauma, you know the toll it has on your mental health. While you should definitely at least give therapy a shot (or a few) if it’s something you can access, there are also other options.
Your mental health should be a priority. It affects your relationships and all other aspects of your life whether you’re aware of it or not. And you can do something about it. Traditional talk therapy doesn’t have to be the only answer.
After my own negative experiences with therapy, I decided to look into alternatives to therapy and other methods for my mental health. After extensive research, I’ve compiled this ultimate list of therapy alternatives, resources and tools, mind and body practices, and other complementary methods for your (and my) mental health needs.
Traditional therapy is the practice of mainstream psychological treatment. A popular example of that is one-on-one talk therapy between a client and mental health professional. However, how effective is talk therapy?
According to research, its benefits seem to be overestimated. Although therapy is advertised as helpful, it isn’t for everyone.
Why traditional talk therapy might not be for you
There are many possible reasons why you may not want to or cannot attend traditional talk therapy:
- You don’t have health insurance or your health insurance doesn’t cover it, so you can’t afford it
- You don’t have the time, energy, or freedom to commit to therapy
- You’re underage and afraid to ask for your parent’s permission or your parents refused to give consent
- You had unhelpful, negative, and possibly even traumatizing experiences with therapy in the past
- You’re worried about the stigma attached to therapy
- You are not ready or don’t want to open up or talk about your experiences with a stranger
- You’re on the waitlist, which can take weeks to months before being able to attend your first session
- You’re unable to find a good therapist
- You simply want to try other options first
Whatever your reason is for not being able to or not wanting to attend therapy is valid. But if you can, I’d recommend giving it a few chances first. I’ve had negative experiences, but I’ve also had positive ones. I’ve learned things about myself, my life, and my relationships that I still apply to my life.
However, if you don’t attend therapy, you still need to do something for your mental health. Taking care of your health is crucial and there are many other ways to do it.
My Experience with Therapy
Discussing all my negative therapy experiences would take forever. So I’ll just talk about my most recent one.
My last therapist lasted about two months. She felt judgmental and condescending. I had trouble telling her things, worrying it’ll be met with certain expressions or comments. She was also pretty rude sometimes. I’m not even talking about the awkward silence when she’s typing. But imagine talking about your trauma with someone who’s munching on some cucumbers.
Sure, she gave some decent advice and maybe taught me a thing or two. But I didn’t think it was worth it if I was feeling the way I did.
My feelings were confirmed when I told her that I wanted to stop therapy because it was causing more stress. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of court and foster care matters. I didn’t want therapy on my plate, too.
As we talked, she said things like “How do you expect to raise your sister if therapy stresses you out?”, “Why is it such trouble attending? It’s not like you’re working”, and “Do you really want to burden your partner with your issues and not a professional?”
I didn’t defend myself because I thought she was right. I just cried. She sounded angry as she tried to get me to talk or respond.
What she said bothered me for a while. Everything she said reinforced my belief that I am weak and useless. She was another person in my life that didn’t think I was trying hard enough or wasn’t good enough.
I blamed myself for everything until I spoke to other people about it, including a professor who was also a psychologist. They helped me realize how harsh and insensitive my therapist was. They said my reactions were justified.
Now that I think about it, what my therapist did was unforgivable. She used vulnerabilities I’ve told her throughout our sessions to manipulate and guilt me. The whole thing shows that I was right to want to stop therapy, at least with her.
I’m aware that every therapist is different and that I shouldn’t give up therapy after a few negative experiences. But it’s normal to feel reluctant to do something again when it has hurt me a few times already, right? I’m not completely giving up on therapy. But I’m not ready to go into it again.
Alternatives to Traditional Talk Therapy
There are many alternative forms of therapies out there waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t have to be just you and a therapist sitting in some office talking things through.
While a lot of therapies on this list are similar to traditional talk therapy in the sense that counseling and talking are involved, there are still enough differences that you could consider giving them a try.
Some therapies are also more effective at treating specific conditions than others, so you can find one that works for you.
1. Online Therapy
Maybe you’re interested in talk therapy but simply don’t have the time, money, or transportation to make it possible. You might also be afraid of the stigma attached to in-person therapy or you’d rather be at home than in some stranger’s office. Whatever your reason is, online therapy can be for you.
In online therapy, sessions are carried out through either instant messaging, texting, video chatting, voice messaging, or audio messaging. Learn more about how effective online therapy is for trauma and its pros and cons.
Studies show that online therapy has become a viable alternative to in-person therapy.
Before COVID-19, most online therapies aren’t covered or reimbursable by most insurance providers. But now that it’s a new normal, most insurance companies see it as equivalent to in-person therapy. But check before attending.
If paying out-of-pocket, online therapy is typically more affordable. Prices depend on which plans and services you choose and how sessions are carried out. You can connect with a certified online therapist here.
Free Online Therapies
Free therapy online obviously cannot compare with paid therapy. However, there’s no harm in going for free options if you can’t afford the paid versions or you simply just want someone to talk to.
|7 Cups of Tea||Comprised of trained listeners with different areas of focus. Downloading the app and talking to the listeners are free.|
|Blah Therapy||Offers an option to talk with a stranger|
|Centre for Interactive Mental Health Solutions||Offers a free 8-session interactive therapy program based on CBT for depression that you complete on your own|
|iPrevail||Free therapy online that follows a peer-to-peer model. You can log in to chat with a trained “peer specialist” for support or fill out a health questionnaire to get more tailored advice.|
|PsychCentral||Offers access to a free therapy forum available 24/7, each of which is centered around a specific topic. They also host weekly and social chats.|
2. Support Groups
Support groups provide a space where you can feel accepted and understood. It can also expand your social support network.
Being in a group can help you open up about what you’re feeling and experiencing. It can be reassuring to learn that you aren’t alone. You can also learn ideas and approaches that others like you have found helpful.
Mental health professionals usually run the support group. They may focus on discussions, which can be about specific topics, the members’ current struggles, or both. Some other ones involve taking part in indoor or outdoor activities.
Support groups can seem intimidating, but how much you share is completely up to you. You can take time to warm up to the group and slowly build up your comfort.
If you find other people’s experiences triggering or you don’t feel like you can support other people, that’s okay. You can try another therapy alternative in this post.
Some websites and organizations that can direct you to support groups near you:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
- Co-dependents Anonymous
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Emotions Anonymous
- Heal Grief
- International OCD Foundation
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
- National Eating Disorders Association
3. School Counseling
Most schools have counselors, social workers, and psychologists there for your academic and personal needs. If you’re a minor or a college student, you can look into what your school has to offer.
If you’re a minor and you plan to speak with someone at your school, depending on what you tell them and/or why you don’t want your parents to find out, CPS could become involved. So consider that risk when speaking to someone at your school.
If you’re in college, see if they have a counseling center. Services are usually included with your tuition so there shouldn’t be additional costs. College counseling centers may offer one-on-one counseling sessions, peer support groups, and/or workshops for dealing with certain struggles.
If you are an alumnus, some schools allow you to return for a consultation or can help refer you to programs outside of campus.
Services offered by universities are usually only available to enrolled students and alumni. However, you can contact nearby universities to see if they have a counseling center and whether they offer services to people in the community. If not, see if they can point you toward free or affordable services.
My Experiences with Counseling at my College
With other therapists, I’m usually just another name on their schedule. I often have to repeat myself because everything I said once I leave seems to be forgotten. Whereas, my college counselor was very attentive and compassionate. It was nice to hear her wonder about how I was doing one weekend because she knew I was about to go through something stressful.
When I was about to leave college, my counselor made sure my transition was smooth. I was still meeting with her as I got to know my new therapist.
Once I was ready, we said our goodbyes. But she made sure to remind me that I can always contact her or the center if needed.
4. EMDR Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR, is a psychotherapy treatment originally designed to reduce the distress associated with traumatic memories.
EMDR engages the five senses, which are supposed to alter the way your brain processes and stores trauma. During EMDR, the therapist determines which memory to target. Then, they would ask the client to hold different aspects of their traumatic event or thought in mind. The client then uses their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision.
A study found EMDR to be more effective at treating people with trauma than regular cognitive behavioral therapy. Repeated studies show that EMDR can provide the benefits of psychotherapy without taking years to make a difference.
Biofeedback is a technique that involves monitoring a person’s physiological state and feeding information about it back to that person.
In biofeedback, recipients are trained to consciously control aspects of their physiology. Then, the learning is used to help manage symptoms of a variety of medical and psychological conditions. Biofeedback may help treat anxiety, insomnia, certain pain disorders, headaches, and some other conditions.
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) biofeedback, is a type of biofeedback that uses a computer-based program to assess a client’s brainwave activity. Through this process, clients learn to regulate and improve their brain function and relieve symptoms of various neurological and mental disorders.
In neurofeedback, the client sits facing a screen with the computer connected to electrodes on the client’s scalp to monitor the brain’s electrical activity. The program then monitors the brain wave patterns and lets the client know how they are managing their brain states by changing the images they see on a screen. Then, clients will get immediate feedback when their brainwave patterns improve.
After a session, clients show greater network connectivity in a significant number of brain areas. They also show an improved ability to rebound emotionally. Clients should also be able to notice changes in stress, sleep patterns, and mental clarity in between sessions.
Hypnotherapy, also known as hypnosis, uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focused attention to achieve a heightened sense of awareness.
Through hypnosis, a therapist puts the client in a suggestible state, then helps them internalize and visualize strategies for change. The client would then be able to explore painful thoughts, feelings, and memories that might be hidden from their consciousness.
Hypnosis is often used to treat phobias, anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, stress, PTSD, and grief. It might also be used to help with pain and habit control (e.g. smoking, overeating). Studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing pain and discomfort.
There are risks to hypnosis such as bringing up repressed traumatic memories or creating false memories. It also might not be appropriate for clients with psychotic symptoms or those using drugs or alcohol.
7. Hakomi Method
Hakomi Mindful Somatic Psychotherapy is the therapeutic expression of a specific set of principles:
- Mind-body integration
The Hakomi Method helps people discover and organize their core material such as their memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns, and deeply held emotional dispositions. It aims to establish a relationship where it’s safe for the client to become self-aware and seek healing changes in their core material.
This method is effective in many therapeutic situations, integrating well with a variety of psychotherapeutic, counseling, and healing modalities.
8. Imago Relationship Therapy
Imago Relationship Therapy is a form of relationship and couples therapy that helps the parties work out misunderstandings, reduce conflict, and rediscover ways to bond, communicate, and find common ground.
Much of the work in this therapy involves learning to recognize how early childhood relationship experiences affect how we communicate, behave, and respond to others in adult relationships.
9. Light Therapy
Light therapy, also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy, is often used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and other conditions like depression and sleep disorders by exposure to artificial light.
You can make a one-time investment in a light therapy lamp. But be sure to do your research on which one is most effective and emits the least harmful ultraviolet light. Be sure to see which one would best meet your needs.
10. Somatic Therapy
Somatic therapy is a form of body-centered therapy that looks at the connection of mind and body. This form of therapy uses talk therapy, mind-body practices, and other physical techniques for a client to release pent-up tension that is negatively affecting their physical and emotional well-being.
Somatic therapy can help people who suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, grief, addiction, relationship problems, trauma, and abuse.
11. Transpersonal Therapy
Transpersonal therapy addresses mental, physical, social, emotional, creative, and intellectual needs, with an emphasis on the role of a healthy spirit in healing. This therapy emphasizes honesty, open-mindedness, and self-awareness for both therapist and client.
It is usually used to treat anxiety, depression, addictions, phobias, and other mood and behavioral problems. However, it may also be helpful to those exploring their spirituality or are having trouble finding meaning in their life.
Ecotherapy, also known as nature or green therapy, is based on the idea that people are connected and impacted by the natural environment. It is an umbrella term for nature-based approaches to healing.
Spending time in and around nature can have many positive effects such as:
- A calmer and quieter mind
- Improved mood
- Reduced stress levels
- Increased activity, thus improved physical health
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
If nature or animals are something you’re into, perhaps you can check out these various types of ecotherapy.
12. Horticultural Therapy
Most people find gardening to be a soothing activity. Therefore, in horticultural therapy, gardening is used to create a calming effect to help patients improve their mental health. Research shows that therapeutic gardening helps reduce pain and stress and improves attention.
13. Animal-assisted Therapy
Animal-assisted therapy introduces one or more animals to the healing process. For example, equine-assisted therapy uses horses to calm and comfort the patient.
Research shows that riding horses helped children with autism improve their social skills and decrease their hyperactivity. Horses can be skittish, therefore their riders are required to approach them calmly, which increases their self-awareness.
Working with a horse helps the patient understand their own behavior and reactions. In other words, by seeing how the horse responds, the patient can see how their behavior affects others.
14. Wilderness Therapy
Some wilderness therapy programs simply involve a hike while talking with a counselor. Meanwhile, some are intensive mental health boot camps designed to connect patients with the outdoors for weeks or months at a time.
One study found that 83 percent of participants maintained positive changes one year after completing the program. When looking into wilderness therapy programs, look into whether the staff is clinically trained and compassionate.
Implement ecotherapy yourself
You don’t have to necessarily register for any programs or services to receive the benefits of ecotherapy. Being around nature is also something you can implement yourself. Some activities you can do:
- Walking in nature like at a park, forest trail, beach, or garden
- Collecting seashells
- Looking at the sky, ocean, or mountains
- Walking a dog
- Pet-sitting for someone
- Joining a conservation project
- Volunteering at an animal shelter, garden, aquarium, or zoo
15-19. Creative Therapy
Creative therapy refers to a group of techniques that are expressive and creative in nature. This form of therapy aims to help clients express themselves beyond using words or traditional therapy. It’s often used when the client is unable to participate in talk therapy or when the approach doesn’t seem to be working.
Creative therapy allows you to express feelings on any subject through creative work rather than with words. Therefore, it is believed to be particularly helpful for those who feel out of touch with their feelings or those experiencing difficulty discussing or remembering painful experiences.
In addition, therapists could integrate principles and tools from various types of creative therapies for their clients.
15. Art Therapy
Art therapy uses the creative process, art created in therapy, and third-party artwork to help people in treatment…
- Develop self-awareness
- Explore emotions
- Address unresolved emotional conflicts
- Improve social skills
- Raise self-esteem
Common techniques used in art therapy include painting, finger painting, doodling, scribbling, sculpting, drawing, carving, and making pottery, cards, or collages. Studies show that it eases the symptoms of mental health issues. In addition, art therapy has been shown to benefit people of all ages, appearing to help with
- Substance dependency
- Eating disorders
- Cognitive impairments
- Issues related to aging and cancer
- Family and relationship issues
A form of art therapy, clay therapy, is effective in emotional regulation as well as attachment and self-expression. As a material, clay is useful in helping learn about the person using it.
To further explain, interacting with clay, such as smoothing, pounding, building, and shaping it, activates the perceptual and decision-making responses in the brain. It may also enhance self-regulation.
16. Writing Therapy
Writing therapy uses writing and processing writing as a form of therapy. It’s believed that writing one’s feelings can ease feelings of emotional trauma. Types of writing therapy include journal, poetry, and letter writing.
This form of therapy is used to work with a wide range of psychoneurotic illnesses including bereavement, desertion, and abuse. Many of these interventions take the form of classes where clients write on specific themes chosen by their therapist.
17. Music Therapy
Music is a form of escape for a lot of people, not just those struggling with mental health issues. Studies show that music therapy and the vibration of sounds can help relieve anxiety and depression.
In addition to music therapy, people are also trying gong therapy, also known as gong or sound baths, which have been reported to help relieve stress.
18. Drama Therapy
Drama therapy provides the context for clients to tell their stories, set goals, solve problems, express feelings, or achieve catharsis. This form of therapy uses play, embodiment, projection, role, story, metaphor, empathy, distancing, witnessing, performance, and improvisation to help people make changes.
Drama therapy is effective for the treatment and prevention of anxiety, depression, and addiction. It can also promote positive changes in mood, insight, and empathy.
19. Dance/Movement Therapy
Dance/movement therapy (DMT) is defined as the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical connection of an individual. This form of therapy relies on the premise that the mind and body are connected and that changes in the body reflect changes in the mind and vice versa.
20. Play Therapy
Play therapy is administered by a licensed therapist who understands how children demonstrate their fears and worries through playing. During therapy, the therapist can help the children confront their issues, handle family problems, and learn new behaviors to reduce certain symptoms.
However, play therapy doesn’t only have to be for children. It can also be used to treat teenagers and adults.
Playful exploration has been proven to enhance cognitive and physical behaviors. A lot of research supports play therapy as a valid therapeutic technique, believing that play is important for people of all ages.
In children or adults, play therapy can be used to treat dementia, grief, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, mood issues, depression, anxiety, developmental issues, and arrested emotional development.
21. Sand Tray Therapy
Sand tray therapy, also known as sandplay therapy, is a combination of play and art therapy. This technique is often used to help adults, adolescents, and children who have experienced a traumatic event. Research shows that this therapy can help increase emotional expression and reduce psychological distress.
In this therapy, a tray or box filled with sand along with some miniature toys is given to the client. The client then creates a world by arranging the toys in any way they want. It’s believed that the client would create a world reflecting their internal struggles or conflicts.
22. Chess Therapy
Chess therapy helps you organize your thoughts more clearly, leading to more productive therapy sessions.
Psychologists have found this approach particularly useful for children with attention-deficit disorders. In other words, working out a tough chess puzzle can help teach the child how to focus, strategize solutions, and think ahead.
However, chess therapy can also be for adults. It is particularly useful for a therapist to gain insight and understand certain behavioral tendencies displayed by socially challenged individuals.
For instance, your strategies used in a chess game can indicate the level of risk you’re willing to take, how impulsive you are, how you react under pressure, or how you deal with defeat.
Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic approach that uses books and other forms of literature to support a patient’s mental health alongside other common therapy types like traditional talk therapy. The books recommended by therapists in this process are usually fiction, but they can encompass any genre or theme.
Reading specific literature and discussing them with a therapist is thought to help clients:
- Understand perspectives other than their own
- Make sense of a difficult past or upsetting symptoms
- Experience feelings of hope, contentment, and empathy
- Improve self-esteem, self-awareness, and feelings of self-efficacy
In short, bibliotherapy can be applied to those suffering from anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, trauma, addiction, grief, divorce, or other relationship-related challenges.
24. Color Therapy
Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is a form of therapy that uses color and light to treat certain mental and physical health conditions. It relies on the basis that different colors invoke different responses from people.
In this therapy, different colors are believed to be able to treat various conditions such as stress, depression, aggression, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, anxiety, certain cancers, and skin infections.
More research still needs to be done on this type of therapy. But a small study on its effectiveness for anxiety found that it was able to relax and reduce anxiety in the participants. Another study found that it has positive effects on depression.
In conclusion, there are many types of therapies out there. Some of them might sound bizarre, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be effective. Some are also specifically tailored to specific disorders.
If you don’t see something on this list that fits your needs, try to explore whether there are therapy alternatives for your specific issue. Or you can explore one of the resources listed in this next section for guidance.
Resources & Tools
There are many accessible free or affordable resources and tools that provide information, support, and treatment for your mental health needs. The resources on this list can provide:
- Support during times of crisis or if you need someone to talk to
- Information, directions, and referrals to local services and programs suited for you
- Coping strategies for various mental illnesses, difficult situations, or general stress
- Information on various disorders, services, therapy types, treatment methods, and more
- Research and educational tools regarding mental health and psychology
Some websites offer information, resources, services, and tools for various types of people struggling with different issues.
Popular websites for general mental health help and resources
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Websites for specific mental health issues:
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation
- Center for Complicated Grief
- GLBT National Help Center
- International OCD Foundation
- National Eating Disorder Association of America
26. Online Communities and Forums
Online forums and communities can be good places to rant, ask for advice, or share your experiences with individuals going through the same thing.
Even if you aren’t participating, just browsing around could be helpful. You may come across stories similar to your own and be able to see other people’s views and approaches.
There are hotlines and call centers you can call in your time of need, if you want someone to talk to, or if you need referrals or information on local resources and services.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255
- GLBT National Help Line 1-888-843-4564
- GLBT National Help Center for Youth 1-800-246-7743
- National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7223
- Trevor Lifeline 1-866-488-7386
- Borderline Personality Disorder Resource Center 1-888-694-2273
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 1-630-577-1330
- National Eating Disorder Association Helpline 1-800-931-2237
- Obsessive-Compulsive Anonymous Nationwide Conference Call 1-712-432-0075
- National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673
28. Chat and Text Services
If a phone call seems scary or you’re scared to speak out loud, there are free services online where you can text or chat with a trained individual or peer.
29. Mental Health Apps
Mental health apps can make therapy more accessible, efficient, affordable, and portable.
While some professionals question whether mental health apps can be a substitute for actual therapy, research states that they have the potential to deliver effective mental health interventions, especially for populations lacking access to proper mental healthcare.
30. Self-Help Books
There are many self-help books out there written by a variety of individuals, covering many different topics and issues. However, not every self-help book is “helpful”. So before you dive in, consider some of these bits of advice.
- Avoid books that promise “miracle” cures or make grand claims like being able to treat you in a month or less.
- Choose books that focus on a specific topic rather than a general “improve-all” direction. They tend to have more targeted advice that may be more useful.
- Make sure that the strategies the book offers are easy to follow and can be self-implemented.
- Pick a book that resonates with you even if it might not be the most popular.
Here are some books about healing from childhood abuse and/or trauma. You can sign up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited to read some of these titles for free or at a discount. If you prefer audiobooks, you can sign up for a free trial with Audible and claim a title for free. It would be yours to keep even when you cancel.
Mind & Body Practices
The mind and body practices listed below are often used to complement therapy rather than substitute it.
However, many of these practices show effectiveness in improving the symptoms of or treating mild to moderate mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
These practices are also effective in:
- Decreasing stress levels
- Promoting relaxation
- Improving sleep
- Benefitting both mind and body
During exercise, your body releases endorphins – hormones that make you feel good. Some additional benefits of exercise include:
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced depression
- Improved memory
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased energy level, balance, and flexibility
- Improved ability to relax
Try to focus on activities you can enjoy like dancing, skateboarding, or playing soccer. Even cleaning the house can be an exercise as long as you are active and moving about. You can be creative and come up with ways to be more active that work for you.
Meditation is a practice that can have significant benefits for mental and physical health. Furthermore, many different types of meditation originate from different cultures and disciplines.
It’s hard to say which meditation techniques are the most effective for treating mental health issues. It’s mostly based on individual preference. So feel free to try various techniques to find the best one for you.
You can get a meditation app that will guide you through various meditations. There are also meditation aids like this one that can provide guided sessions. If you prefer reading and meditating at your own pace, there are also books and guides you can check out.
32. Mindfulness Meditation
A popular form of meditation that can be used to manage symptoms associated with anxiety, depression, and other mild to moderate mental health issues is mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your mind on your experiences in the present moment like your emotions, thoughts, and sensations. Its purpose is to help you be aware and notice the thoughts, feelings, and state of your body without becoming reactive to them.
However, practicing mindfulness doesn’t only have to be through meditation. It can be incorporated into your everyday life, such as when you’re doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, driving, or exercising.
33. Insight Meditation
Another form of meditation, known as insight meditation or vipassana, focuses on the breath. This helps to calm the mind so you can more clearly see your own thought patterns. This form of meditation helps you become aware of your mental conditioning and how it may be working against you.
34. Guided Imagery and Relaxation
Similar to meditation, guided imagery and relaxation is a form of focused relaxation that connects the mind and body. It guides you to create calm, peaceful images in your mind, also known as a “mental escape”, for relaxation purposes. It is often used as a coping strategy for stress, anger, pain, depression, and insomnia.
Guided imagery is a widely used self-directed treatment of anxiety that’s often practiced together with meditation or mindfulness training. It can be individualized to fit the specific symptoms of each person.
Yoga is a mind and body practice that combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation.
Postures and movements taught in yoga teach you how to hold your body in a way to make you feel stronger, better able to breathe and function, and create an improved sense of overall well-being.
Research shows that yoga can significantly improve mood and reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It teaches breathing techniques that can help during times of anxiety.
In The Body Keeps the Score, 10 weeks of yoga practice was said to have markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients who had failed to respond to any medication or any other treatment.
Pilates is both a physical and mental workout, focusing on correct alignment, control, breathing, flowing movement, and concentration. Research suggests that pilates also creates a lot of mental health benefits such as:
- Enhanced mindfulness,
- Reduced stress
- Improved memory
- Improved relaxation
- Increased connections between nerve cells in the brain
- Assistance in the treatment of depression and anxiety
Pilates is low-impact in nature. Therefore, it is suitable for people of all ages. Exercises can also be modified to suit you.
37. Tai Chi and Qi Gong
Tai Chi and Qi Gong, also known as moving meditation, involve certain postures and gentle movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation. These movements, if practiced quickly, can also be a form of combat or self-defense.
Research shows that tai chi appears to improve psychological well-being such as reduced stress, anxiety, depression, and mood disturbance. It also appears to increase self-esteem.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese method of healing performed by sticking very thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body. Its use for overall wellness like stress management has recently increased.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique used to correct imbalances in one’s energy flow. Meanwhile, Western practitioners view the body points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, which they believe boosts the body’s natural painkillers.
Acupuncture is highly effective at treating pain. Studies show that it might also be effective in treating depression. However, you may be at risk of complications if you have a bleeding disorder, a pacemaker, or are pregnant.
If you are interested in acupuncture, do some research to make sure you find a competent and certified practitioner. Also, try to see if your health insurance would help cover some of the costs.
Massage uses touch to promote relaxation and decrease tension and stress. It is widely used in all cultures to treat chronic stress and anxiety and has a strong record of success.
During a massage, your body releases serotonin and dopamine (“happy” hormones) while it decreases cortisol (stress hormones). Functional brain imaging studies show that during a massage, changes occur in many areas of the brain that regulate emotions and stress responses.
If massage is something you’re willing to try, do some research to see what type of massage seems right for you. A massage therapist can also implement various massage techniques in a session that is tailored to your needs.
However, a massage doesn’t have to be given by a professional to be effective. Massage from your significant other or even certain massage items could be beneficial as well.
Swedish massage, the most common type of massage, is usually what comes to mind when people think of massages. A study found that volunteers who received a 45-minute Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in cortisol, along with boosts in white blood cells and immune cells.
Reflexology is the application of appropriate pressure to specific points and areas on the feet, hands, and ears to relieve stress, address feet and ankle conditions, and promote overall relaxation.
Reflexologists believe that each point corresponds to different body organs and systems (e.g. a point in the arch of the foot corresponds to the bladder).
Although this method is not often used to diagnose or cure disease, millions of people use it to complement other treatments including anxiety.
Aromatherapy, also sometimes known as essential oil therapy, uses aromatic essential oils made from natural plant extracts to enhance both physical and mental health. This therapy can be seen as a form of massage and works through the sense of smell and skin absorption using essential oils.
Moreover, each oil has unique healing properties, uses, and effects. Each can be used alone or in any combination. And combining certain oils is said to cause a synergistic blend that creates more benefits. Aromatherapy is said to:
- Manage pain
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce stress, agitation, and anxiety
- Improve digestion
- Boost immunity
Research shows that aromatherapy has the potential to be used as an effective option for the relief of depressive symptoms.
You can implement aromatherapy at home with a diffuser and some essential oils.
Reiki is a Japanese spiritual healing art that is similar to massage but is not to be confused as a form of massage. It involves the transfer of universal energy from the practitioner’s palms to the client.
Similar in concept to acupuncture and reflexology, reiki aims to help the flow of energy and remove blocks. Practitioners say that improving the flow of energy can enable relaxation, reduce pain, speed healing, and reduce other symptoms of illness.
According to research, reiki primarily helps in the reduction of stress, anxiety, and depression. It is also used to help treat autism.
Kinesiology is the use of muscle monitoring to ask the body for feedback regarding its current state. Common balancing methods include:
- Massaging meridians
- Gentle rubbing
- Holding or tapping
- Strengthening systems with wholefood nutrition
- Sound and tuning forks
- Movement, breath work, and physical releases
- Belief system reframing
- Relaxation and visualization work
A kinesiologist will try to understand their patient’s specific anxiety symptoms while trying to figure out the cause of their behavior. Some benefits of kinesiology include improved mental health, decreased anxiety, and help with learning difficulties.
44. Osteopathic Manipulation
Osteopathic manipulative treatment is a set of hands-on techniques used by osteopathic physicians (DOs) to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness or injury. It can also be used to ease pain, promote healing, and increase overall mobility.
Research shows that it also helps reduce anxiety and mental health dysfunction, and improves self-care.
45. Feldenkrais Method
The Feldenkrais Method is a body-oriented intervention that helps people reconnect with their bodies and learn ways to move more efficiently. It can also help increase vitality, coordination, and improve overall well-being.
Although this treatment is aimed toward those with a restricted, pained, or limited range of motion due to injuries, chronic pain, or other physical or neurological concerns, people who are experiencing stress, anxiety, or conditions leading them to feel that way may also benefit from this treatment.
46. Trager Approach
The Trager Approach, also known as psychophysical integration therapy, focuses on reducing unnatural patterns of movement and eliminating neuromuscular tension by using gentle, rhythmic rocking motions. Meanwhile, the rocking motions can create a state of deep relaxation which can allow the body and mind to achieve balance and integration.
This approach is best used for postural problems, mobility issues, and pain relief. However, it can also relieve tension headaches, stress-related disorders, and other emotional imbalances.
Other Complementary Methods
The methods on this list are more for temporary relief. They are not options to substitute therapy and are not to be used to treat mental disorders. Instead, it is complementary to whatever form of therapy or alternative treatment you decide to go for.
If medication is something you are interested in, talk to your doctor. Your doctor might then refer you to a psychiatrist who can determine whether you should take medication and which one would be best for you. The psychiatrist might also recommend therapy, so be prepared to discuss therapy options with them.
All medications come with side effects. So ask your doctor about them before starting them. Remember, medication can only relieve some symptoms you may be experiencing. If your issues aren’t purely biological or physiological, It’s still important to work through them.
48. Herbal Remedies & Natural Supplements
Herbal remedies or natural supplements are like medication, but they aren’t regulated or tested. Therefore, you should be very careful when using any of these products. Please consult with a doctor first before trying it.
Harvard published a review listing natural supplements that are considered safe and often effective for a variety of mental health problems. For each supplement listed, the review describes what it is, what it’s for, who may benefit from it, and how much to take. Their list includes:
49. A Healthy Diet
Improving your diet and reducing your intake of processed foods and sugar and adding greens, fruits, and fermented foods rich in probiotics can help those suffering from depression, anxiety, and early trauma.
Trillions of digestive bacteria in the brain have a powerful influence on your state of mind. Gut bacteria manufacture more than 80 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, which significantly influences mood. Meanwhile, bad bacteria in the gut lead to lower mood, anxiety, depression, and a predisposition to be less resilient in the face of adversity and stress.
50. Social Support
Social support involves a network of people that you can turn to in time of need, which is often identified as a key component of strong psychological health. It refers to the psychological and material resources provided by that network to help individuals cope with stress.
Social support can encourage healthy choices and behaviors, help individuals cope better with stress, and improve motivation. In addition, having strong social ties and positive, supportive interactions helps produce more oxytocin, a “feel-good” hormone that helps reduce the overactive inflammatory stress response in your body.
Meanwhile, poor social support has been linked to depression. Loneliness has been shown to increase the risk of depression, suicide, alcohol use, cardiovascular disease, and altered brain function.
51. Hopeful Panda
Finally, as a bonus, I would like to add Hopeful Panda to this list.
This blog obviously cannot substitute actual therapy. But I think it’s a good tool and resource for your mental health needs and healing journey. And I plan to add more as I continue on my own journey 🙂
This post contains a lot of resources, tools, and treatments that can replace and/or complement traditional talk therapy. But like with everything else, do your research before jumping into it.
Try out various things to find one that works best for you. It might not be just one method but a combination of different methods that turns out to be the perfect package for you. As you can see, there are many options out there. This list is just the tip of the iceberg.