In this modern era, there are as many treatment alternatives for psychiatric disorders as there are for medical problems. Yet, the question of whether to use standard, complementary or alternative therapies is often a matter of what is available. For example, if you’re experiencing depression in Europe, you’ll have a much easier time finding a medical doctor to prescribe the herb St. John’s wort for depression than you will if you live in the United States.
This is because herbal medicine is considered the first standard of care among many European medical doctors, whereas drug therapy is generally the first choice of U.S. physicians. This is not to imply that drugs are bad, but limited options do translate into a limited standard of care when methods that may be the most beneficial are not available in some instances.
This is the jumping off point for the consumer. In order to learn the available options for a particular health problem, we must do considerable research to find out what works and where to get services. Once a place is found that provides the service we’re interested in, we face the daunting task of determining if the health care practitioner is competent and trustworthy.
As scientific evidence accumulates in support of non-conventional approaches to mental health care, more and more practitioners are suggesting these methods to patients. Since prevention of disease is as imperative as treatment, studies showing the effectiveness of preventative measures are more valuable than ever. By examining this information with fresh eyes, we can glean suggestions on how to make lifestyle changes for optimum mental health.
People turn to unconventional therapies for a variety of reasons. The most common reason cited for seeking advice from an alternative provider in the U.S. is anxiety, followed by depression and headaches. Of those who use complementary and alternative medicine, 59% perceive it to be at least as effective as pharmacology.
In surveys, people have given several reasons for using alternative treatment options, including recommendations by “word of mouth” (32%), fear of side effects associated with conventional therapies (21%), chronic medical problems (19%), dissatisfaction with conventional medicine (14%), and desire for more personalized attention (9%). The major advance of complimentary and alternative approaches lies in the power such methods provide for education and exerting control over personal health care.