13 Alternative Mental Health Therapies [2024]|Types & Uses

Jun 4, 20248 min
Alternative Mental Health Therapies - a therapy session conducted by a group

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Mental health is a state of mental well-being that helps an individual cope with stress”. Sometimes, due to adverse life circumstances, coping with stress becomes difficult. A result of this is a variety of mental disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc. 

Alternative mental health therapies are non-mainstream therapies that are adjuncts to psychotherapy and medications but are not meant to replace them. tDCS, a brain stimulation technique that treats depression, is an excellent alternative mental health therapy, gaining popularity among many people.  

If you feel you are stuck with ruminative thoughts or worry about your future, here is a list of scientifically proven alternative mental health therapies that can guide you to the path of living a peaceful life. 

Alternative therapies for mental health problems:

1. Mave Health's Arc [tDCS Technology]:

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a powerful brain stimulation technique that can enhance the activity of the neurons leading to better functioning of the brain. The tDCS technology is a powerful non-invasive tool that is used to manage depression and other mental health disorders. 

The ARC-tDCS, designed by Mave Health is one such tool that is being used for treating depression. This technology can treat mental health disorders, especially depression and anxiety. The upside of using this technology is experiencing minimal to no side effects.

Is tDCS safe and effective? 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems tDCS to be safe for use. It has shown positive results while using it for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, depression, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many more. No patients have been recorded to have serious adverse effects after the stimulation. There can be mild transient pain (itching) during and after the stimulation. However, this resolves after the stimulation is complete. tDCS does not cause any kind of alterations in the cerebral tissue (brain tissue) during or after the stimulation. 

Benefits of tDCS:

At Mave Health, 88% of the people using ARC-tDCS have shown improvement and reduced their depression score within 12 weeks. ARC-tDCS is combined with psychotherapy, psychiatric medications, nutritional coaching, fitness consultations, and a Care Coach to ensure holistic healing of the patients and help them enhance mindfulness. The consultation calls and personalized program are specifically designed to help patients navigate through their problems and reach a secure place with utmost care. 

2. Yoga:

Is Yoga as an Alternative Therapy Safe and Effective?  

Yoga has been a part of our ancient medicine for more than 5000 years. The practice of yoga was first mentioned in the texts of “RigVeda”. Yoga includes practicing physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation for self-awareness and self-regulation. Slow breathing and focus help the body switch from the fight-flight response (part of the sympathetic nervous system)  to the relaxation response (para-sympathetic nervous system). 

Benefits of yoga as alternate mental health therapy:

Yoga has been shown to improve executive functions, attention, intelligence, memory, and concentration to people. Studies involving MRI scans show that people who perform Yoga regularly have a thicker cerebral cortex (the area responsible for processing information) which plays a key role in memory retention and decision-making. 

 3. Acupuncture:

A common thought that acupuncture evokes in our minds is a thousand needles poked into the body, probably to relieve some muscle pain. Although it is used primarily for treating physiological pains, acupuncture is also used for relieving mental pains. By mental pains, we mean stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. 

Acupuncture targets points on the head and neck that help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by inducing a state of calm. It can help to improve the sleep cycle, increase metabolism, and release endorphins; hormones that help to deal with pain.

4. Pet/Animal therapy:

You might have heard about PTSD patients or army men in war having an emotional support animal. This is because they provide comfort to the individuals in need. This therapy, known as animal therapy or animal-assisted therapy, helps to manage the symptoms caused by many mental health disorders. Research shows that a simple act of petting dogs can reduce the amount of cortisol (stress hormone) released by the body. 

A survey says that having animals around you can reduce the effect of stress or depression by 40% without the use of any medication. Taking care of the animals can help to manage depressive feelings because taking care of a pet can give s the owner a sense of purpose in life. 

It is not necessary to adopt a pet if you cannot commit to being a caretaker. You can always pet the stray dog or animal waiting for you outside your house, workplace, or any place you find them. 

5. Guided Imagery:

This is a deliberate relaxation technique. People who practice guided imagery picture positive events and things happening to them. They are encouraged to imagine positive/ relieving outcomes in situations that are too stressful for them. 

Guided imagery can reduce levels of anxiety, pain quality, pain intensity, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation. It is a cost-effective method that can be combined with other therapies to have an enhanced result for your mental wellness. 

6. Mindfulness and Meditation:

Mindfulness means being aware and present in each moment. It also means calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts. 

Practicing mindfulness and meditation is an excellent tool to enhance the healing effect manifold. A study shows that people who practiced meditation for 30 minutes for 8 weeks had increased volumes of gray matter (tissue in the brain that is crucial for normal day-to-day functioning). 

Mindfulness and Meditation:

As a beginner, here is how you can practice mindfulness and meditation:

  1. Find a comfortable place
  2. Close your eyes and focus on the rest of your senses
  3. Breathe in and then breathe out
  4. Do it for 20 minutes

Your mind might wander to thoughts, circumstances, and problems that are usually concerning you. Bring yourself back from wandering and start breathing again. If you find it difficult to concentrate, you can listen to a guided meditation and take the first step towards meditating.  

7. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids:

We know reading fatty acids might have alerted you. Do not worry…just read this one out. 

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are known as “Healthy fats” and are a part of essential nutrients that play fundamental roles in the development, functioning, and aging of the brain. 

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are known to stabilize the risk of mental health disorders like dementia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. Consuming Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can increase attention and cognitive well-being. Please consult a professional before consuming supplements for your mental health. 

8. Biofeedback:

Biofeedback is a type of therapy that monitors your reaction to certain stimuli. Your heart rate, breathing, muscle movements, sweat output, body temperature, and brain activity are measured accurately. But how does this exactly help? 

For instance, you suffer from anxiety and your heart starts beating fast whenever you are anxious. Biofeedback can detect these changes and let you know exactly when you get triggered. Then, by following exercises to reduce anxiety, you can effectively manage it without having to seek help. 

Biofeedback can identify precise pain points in the course of therapy and is an excellent adjunct therapy to reduce symptoms of mental health disorders. It is known to improve the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and reduce the effect of PTSD on many individuals.

9. Herbal remedies

Based on the ancient knowledge present in our scriptures, herbs and supplements have been long known to have a positive effect on the mental health of patients. Herbal remedies promise a potential treatment for depression as they are known to produce effects that are similar to anxiolytics and antidepressants. 

Lavender, passionflower, and saffron are commonly used. More research needs to be done to establish the superiority of herbal remedies over routine anti-depressants. People who use herbal remedies have reported an improved quality of life and enhanced body functioning.

10. Light therapy:

The depressive symptoms may cause a person to stay in closed spaces and not move due to a lack of motivation and energy. However, it can worsen the depressive symptoms.

While going out to soak in the sun is helpful, it can be hard to engage in movement while you are feeling depressed. Here, red light therapy can help! - studies show that red light can mimic sunlight and give similar benefits. 

In light therapy, the patient is subjected to 10,000 lux of light that activates the synapses and thus stimulates the brain. This increases serotonin levels which are crucial for mood, sleep, and sexual desire. Light therapy has been used in treatments of Major Depressive disorder (MDD) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

 11. Music Therapy:

Which one do you prefer - Rock metal, a symphony, or some good old rock and roll? It might be hard to believe but music has healing powers. Music therapy was started during the World War II  for the soldiers. Since then music therapy has been included in hospital and social care. 

Different parts of our brain are activated while listening to a single song. 

A study shows that listening to music for 15 to 30 minutes for 4 times a week reduces anxiety and boosts motivation levels. It has been shown to work for people suffering from neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and Major Depressive Disorder. 

 12. Homeopathy:

Homeopathy follows the principle of “like cures like”- A substance causing certain symptoms can also be used to cure those symptoms. Homeopathic products include substances that are procured from natural substances.  It has a record of treating depression and reducing the symptoms to a minimum. 

 13. Aromatherapy:

Aromatherapy uses essential oils for mental well-being. These essential oils are obtained from flowers, stems, bark, and leaves of plants. Essential oils have a calming effect on the mind and induce immediate relaxation. A study concluded that intervention with aromatherapy improved the depressive symptoms of women suffering from postpartum depression.

Conclusion:

Although alternative therapies are not a part of mainstream medical care, they are useful for many individuals suffering from mental health illnesses. People can use these therapies to improve their general well-being and as an adjunct to professional care services. 

For depression and anxiety, non-invasive brain stimulation techniques like tDCS have shown remarkable results. 

Using ARC-tDCS by Mave Health can help you reduce your stress, anxiety, and depression to a great extent. It has the next minimum to no side effects and an impressive record of treating depression. 

At Mave Health, we believe that achieving good mental health is not the destination, but a process. We are there to support you every step of the way and celebrate every milestone you achieve. 

Citation:

  1. Parizad, N., Goli, R., Faraji, N., Mam-Qaderi, M., Mirzaee, R., Gharebaghi, N., Baghaie, R., Feizipour, H., & Haghighi, M. M. (2021). Effect of guided imagery on anxiety, muscle pain, and vital signs in patients with COVID-19: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 43, 101335. 
  2. Zepeda-Quiroz, N., Luna-Reséndiz, R., & Soto-Sánchez, J. (2021). Efficacy of Individualized Homeopathy in Treatment-Resistant Depression. Cureus, 13(10), e18444. 
  3. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: Learn More – How effective is psychological treatment?  [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. 
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/light-therapy-not-just-for-seasonal-depression-202210282840  
  5. https://www.husson.edu/online/blog/2022/07/benefits-of-animal-assisted-therapy 
  6. Lee, M.-J., Ryu, J.-S., Won, S.-K., Namgung, U., Jung, J., Lee, S.-M., Park, J.-Y., 2019. Effects of Acupuncture on Chronic Stress-Induced Depression-Like Behavior and Its Central Neural Mechanism. Front. Psychol. 10, 1353. 
  7. Yeung, K.S., Hernandez, M., Mao, J.J., Haviland, I., Gubili, J., 2018. Herbal Medicine for Depression and Anxiety: A Systematic Review with Assessment of Potential Psycho-Oncologic Relevance. Phytother. Res. PTR 32, 865–891. 
  8. Alneyadi, M., Drissi, N., Almeqbaali, M., & Ouhbi, S. (2021). Biofeedback-Based Connected Mental Health Interventions for Anxiety: Systematic Literature Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 9(4), e26038. 
Author's Profile picture
Mave
Clinical Psychologist