While mental illness is often assumed to only affect certain groups of people, no community is immune. In fact, nearly 58 million Americans (1 in 5 adults) were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2021 alone, and many people struggle and are never accounted for or receive the treatment they need.
Many factors affect an individual’s ability to attend therapy, including lack of insurance to cover treatment costs. Therefore, providing practical tools and resources that come at no cost can be exceptionally important to foster mental health resilience. Below is a collection of talk therapy alternatives and complements to support mental health wellness.
Talk therapy alternatives and complements for mental health
Referred to clinically as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), certain types of therapy are suitable for self-use for those who can’t seek formal therapy. While CAM therapy can be a valuable resource when treatment is not accessible, these alternative options can also be valuable when used alongside formal therapy.
Digital and online
One especially valuable benefit in the digital age is that there are numerous online and digital resources that can be used to navigate some of the complexities of issues such as anxiety or depression, including:
- Mental health apps. Several apps exist to help individuals track their mental health and symptoms.
- Digital journals. Digital journaling makes the task of letting out emotions through writing accessible from anywhere with a smartphone.
- CBT applications. Cognitive behavioural therapy apps offer a self-guided way for individuals to work through basic CBT ideologies and apply them to their own situations.
- YouTube channels. Numerous channels provide resources like guided relaxation or simple one-sided talk therapy sessions.
Many people find solace and reprieve in creativity. Therefore, the creative arts are an excellent resource when it comes to free or inexpensive support through mental health challenges. A few examples of how creative arts can be used include:
- Expressive art therapy through painting or crafts
- Music therapy through lyrical writing or passive listening to soothe certain symptoms of mental issues
- Poetry or writing therapy as an emotional outlet
- Dance used as a form of emotional expression
Movement therapy is a form of CAM centred around getting active to negate the ill effects of mental health challenges. This may mean something as simple as following an exercise routine or practicing an activity like yoga, tai chi, or pilates.
Interactions with animals and pets can be incredibly beneficial for those struggling with mental health. Therefore, the adoption or fostering of a pet may be warranted, or even occasionally volunteering at a local shelter or pet-sitting for a friend could offer support.
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and may involve simple objectives such as:
- Breathing exercises
- Meditating for a few minutes
- Following a healthy sleep schedule
- Practicing stress-management techniques
Nature or wilderness tools
Also referred to as ecotherapy, nature and wilderness therapy helps with mental health by pulling an individual into a more natural environment and placing focus on something external. Ecotherapy can include simple actions like gardening, taking a nature walk or hiking.
Alternative tools for mental health support have been shown to be effective for many individuals. For instance, acupuncture may be good for negating stress and anxiety. Likewise, certain nutraceuticals and supplements may help deter some mental health symptoms.
Infographic created by Legacy Recovery Center
Alternative therapies are accessible and effective for everyone
Ideally, individuals with serious mental health challenges will have access to professional therapy. However, there may be barriers that make professional therapy inaccessible. In these circumstances, CAM therapies can be an exceptionally valuable resource, allowing patients to build their own repertoire of supportive tools for overall better mental health.