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Complementary Therapy in Mental Health Treatment


As a working nurse professional, ensuring the health and wellbeing of patients is the most vital aspect of everyday practice. Those involved in the healthcare sphere constantly need to improve their skills, both using the current evidence-based practices and improving their own work competencies. In this discussion, the field of mental health treatment and support can be considered as one of the most intricate, requiring the combination of both personal and professional consideration. Due to the need to improve and develop new approaches towards supporting people’s mental health, the use and application of additional forms of treatment is beneficial. One such treatment method is Complementary Therapy, that has largely existed as another facet of medicine throughout history. The use of Complementary methods in addition to regular mental health approaches has great potential, and should be explored in detail.

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The Purpose

This presentation, as a whole, aims to thoroughly explore and examine the topic of complementary therapy. As potential approach to assisting mental health treatment, the effectiveness of the practices involved must be discussed. As a starting point, it should be noted that not all medical health professionals and nurses understand what complementary therapy is, or hold a set of negative misconceptions towards it. A discussion involving some of the approaches’ history should be performed to resolve this. Additionally, I will try to state some of the evidence-proven benefits of complementary therapy, especially in the field of nursing. As a final point, I will connect the discussion regarding this type of support with nursing and mental health treatment, which will serve as an anchor for further discussion and examination.

What is Complementary Therapy?

As a whole, contemporary therapy has been considered a less credible alternative to mainstream medicine. When individuals are unable to procure normal means of medical support, they might choose to turn to so-called alternative solutions. Additionally, some may use it out of distrust or ineffectiveness of regular solutions, as exemplified by many people suffering from cancer (King et al., 2015). Historically, complementary treatment has often emerged as an extension or application of spiritual practices, or other approaches found in daily life. Their existence and popularity largely relies on notions of common sense and people’s experiences. The scientific data on the effectiveness of each particular type of treatment varies, with some being considered more reliable than others (Lindquist et al., 2018). (image credits (Getty Images/iStockphoto))

Applications and Use

There are a variety of applications for complementary therapy, depending on a specific individual’s needs and circumstances. In case of people with terminal and chronic illness, this type of support can be emotionally beneficial, improving their outlook on life and helping to cope (Foley & Steel, 2017). In other types of patients, complementary therapy can additionally be useful in improving recovery processes, and ensuring good post-operational condition (Arıkan et al., 2019). As shown by a variety of other sources, the use and promotion of complementary therapy can be used in mental health support as well, helping certain patients in the process of healing.

Effectiveness of Complementary Therapy

As noted previously, some types of complementary therapy have been examined in mental healthcare setting more thoroughly than others. Such approaches as meditation, yoga, and exercise, in particular, have received significant attention. Yoga therapy can be effective in a variety of fields, including both physical and mental wellness. Reviews of available literature have shown that while there are still significant gaps in knowledge, yoga can be used as a way to mitigate symptoms of various illnesses (Jeter et al., 2015). Additionally, it can be said that yoga help domestic violence survivors, given that it is used in a considerate manner (Clark et al., 2014). It has also been noted to help people with breast cancer. Exercise therapy, similarly, is said to be good for improving patient wellness, both mentally and physically (Knapen et al., 2014). It is important to note, however, that many nursing professionals lack the sufficient knowledge regarding CT and its applications (Chang & Chang, 2015). This trend can affect both the effectiveness and scope of applications of the practice in the medical environment.

Meaning for Nursing Practice and Mental Health Treatment

It should be said that the application and use of complementary therapy has already become a consideration in the medical field. As CT directly impacts patient wellbeing, perception of their condition and physical health, it has always been a part of the healthcare sphere as a whole. In nursing, it can be put to good use to improve the quality and effectiveness of other mental health support approaches. As noted by research about domestic violence survivors, people with anxiety and depression, the use of CT can greatly improve the work of a nurse (Butterfield et al., 2017; Macy et al., 2015). Additionally, the expansion of a nurse’s arsenal regarding mental health support can be a good way to improve nursing practice as a whole. By experiencing and applying a variety of approaches towards treating mental health, nurses and other medical professionals can get a more full picture of the healthcare delivery picture, and the wide spectrum of human wellness.

What a Nurse Must Know About Complementary Therapy

Overall, the process of using and practicing CT as a part of mental health support process should be done similarly to other healthcare practices and treatment options. Evidence-based practice is the most central need in the process, both for choosing appropriate practices and applying them in a real-life setting. Additionally, patient’s wellbeing and ability to participate should be taken into account as well, because many CT practices can be effective depending on a particular individual’s capabilities. Lastly, medical qualifications and safety precautions should always be the first and most major need in the process. By using scientifically-approved safety considerations, a nurse can utilize CT while ensuring patient wellness.

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Skills a Nurse Must have to Perform Complementary Therapy

To actively practice and implement CT approaches in mental health treatment, a nurse must, first of all, posses the variety of skills needed to perform complementary therapy. Therapy approaches must be adapted to the needs of the individual, depending on their physical and mental capabilities. Furthermore, a nursing professional should be capable of participating or guiding the therapy process, meaning that a familiarity with both theoretic and practical process of applying CT is necessary. (image credits (Cleveland Clinic))


King, N., Balneaves, L. G., Levin, G. T., Nguyen, T., Nation, J. G., Card, C., Truant, T., & Carlson, L. E. (2015). Surveys of cancer patients and cancer health care providers regarding complementary therapy use, communication, and information needs. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 14(6), 515–524. Web.

Lindquist, R., Tracy, M. F., & Snyder, M. (2018). Complementary and alternative therapies in nursing. Springer Publishing Company, LLC.

Arıkan, F., Uçar, M. A., Kondak, Y., Tekeli, A., Kartöz, F., Özcan, K., Göksu, S. S., & Coşkun, H. Ş. (2019). Reasons for complementary therapy use by cancer patients, information sources and communication with health professionals. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 44, 157–161. Web.

Butterfield, N., Schultz, T., Rasmussen, P., & Proeve, M. (2017). Yoga and mindfulness for anxiety and depression and the role of Mental Health Professionals: A literature review. The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, 12(1), 44–54. Web.

Knapen, J., Vancampfort, D., Moriën, Y., & Marchal, Y. (2014). Exercise therapy improves both mental and physical health in patients with major depression. Disability and Rehabilitation, 37(16), 1490–1495. Web.

Clark, C. J., Lewis-Dmello, A., Anders, D., Parsons, A., Nguyen-Feng, V., Henn, L., & Emerson, D. (2014). Trauma-sensitive yoga as an adjunct mental health treatment in group therapy for survivors of domestic violence: A feasibility study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 20(3), 152–158. Web.

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Jeter, P. E., Slutsky, J., Singh, N., & Khalsa, S. B. (2015). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: A bibliometric analysis of published research studies from 1967 to 2013. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(10), 586–592. Web.

Macy, R. J., Jones, E., Graham, L. M., & Roach, L. (2015). Yoga for trauma and related mental health problems: A meta-review with clinical and service recommendations. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 19(1), 35–57. Web.

Foley, H., & Steel, A. (2017). The nexus between patient-centered care and complementary medicine: Allies in the era of chronic disease? The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(3), 158–163. Web.

Chang, H.-Y., & Chang, H.-L. (2015). A review of nurses’ knowledge, attitudes, and ability to communicate the risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24(11-12), 1466–1478. Web.

Massage as an alternative therapy. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Web.

Variety of Complementary Therapy Approaches. (n.d.). LaTeacha A. Coleman Foundation. Web.

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