Practitioners have recognized the holistic care practices in treating mental health disorders; although many haven’t been rigorously tested in scientific labs, a significant number of patients report feeling better when they practice these holistic techniques, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, or exercise. Many patients are of the opinion that herbal remedies seem to do more for them than conventional medicine.

If you plan on becoming a mental health counselor, it is important to understand holistic treatments for mental health, how they work, and their benefits. Mental health nurses around the country have been using these therapies with success, and the uptake is expected to increase in the future.

On a mental health counseling degree, such as the American International College, students learn theory, research, and clinical skills in mental health care. They get a good understanding of modern counseling techniques, psychotherapeutic practices, clinical skills, and remediation. They also learn how to assess and diagnose patients as well as how to develop treatment plans. These courses often include holistic therapies, but it can never hurt to conduct your own research into the benefits of these therapies in your practice.

What are holistic therapies in mental health care?

As the name suggests, these are therapies that address both the mind and body in tandem to foster healing. They bring together all aspects of a patient’s life. This is called a holistic approach. If a patient suffers from depression, for example, a holistic nurse may want to find out about their diet, their sleep habits, their friends, their work, and their environment.

These are not typically areas that Western medicine would address. With a typical Western approach, a doctor, after diagnosing depression, would first turn to medication. Holistic mental healthcare takes a more comprehensive approach that also often incorporates Western medicine if there are benefits for the patient.

A nurse taking a holistic approach may first recommend that a depressive patient change their diet, work fewer hours, improve their social life, and have daily yoga and meditation classes before turning to medication. They may also recommend herbs that are reputed to be beneficial for mental health.

What are the benefits of holistic therapy in mental health care?

To provide an understanding of the underlying causes of illness

Stress, depression, and anxiety are often products of our environments. Holistic practices such as meditation and yoga help patients understand the causes of their problems so that they can work on eliminating them.

If, for example, a patient’s depression is affected by too little sleep, the patient, together with the nurse, can come up with a system where the patient gets to bed earlier, sleeps better, and gets complete rest each night.

Holistic therapies often provide long-term solutions for common conditions

Many mental health patients who embrace holistic treatments often find that they are more in control of their lives for the long term. If they practice their therapies regularly, they can control their thoughts and are happier in the long term.

Holistic therapies are cheaper for patients

As a mental health nurse, you will encounter patients who cannot afford to keep up with the cost of treatments. It is useful to discuss holistic therapies and their benefits, as they are often cheaper than conventional treatments.

Some holistic treatments, such as yoga and meditation, don’t cost anything. If a patient chooses therapies like acupuncture or hydrotherapy, the cost is still lower than if they were to go on prescription medication.

Holistic therapies avoid addiction problems

Some patients are required to take pills for years and this can lead to problems with reliance and addiction. There is no danger of becoming an addict with holistic therapies.

There are no side effects

Although many of these therapies are yet to undergo rigorous testing, there is evidence that they have been used for centuries without any negative effects on the patients.

How can mental health nurses use holistic therapies?

Find institutions that use holistic therapies

The first step is to get employed in an institution that supports the use of holistic therapies. Fortunately, as more and more Americans have turned towards alternative therapies, many hospitals and treatment centers have adopted them. According to a report by Johns Hopkins, nearly 40% of American adults and 12% of children use alternative and complementary therapies to treat various conditions.

As you plan your path to becoming a mental health counselor, you should make a list of all hospitals and healthcare institutions near you that use holistic medicine to treat mental health patients. When you graduate, send applications to all of them to increase your chances of getting hired.

Familiarize yourself with different holistic healing techniques

The more you know about holistic therapies, the better. Numerous non-conventional methods are used to help mental health patients, and it is up to you to learn what they are and how they work.

Keep in mind that you can only use practices that are allowed by your institution. You should never try new holistic healing methods before discussing them with your supervisor and other experienced practitioners.

Stay up to date

Holistic healing is a field that is relatively new in America and, therefore continually evolving. If you want to be an effective mental health nurse who uses holistic treatments to help patients, you must stay up to date with the latest therapies. It is often useful to meet with others in the field so that you can exchange ideas and discuss how you can best help patients.

Encourage other mental health nurses to embrace holistic health

If more nurses use these therapies in conjunction with Western medicine, the overall effect is a healthier population. Talk to management about introducing the rest of the nursing staff to alternative medicine.

Final thoughts

There is an increasing demand for holistic therapies in America, and mental health nurses have started to acknowledge the benefits of this form of alternative treatment.

You can learn about holistic therapy through a nursing degree, seminars, conferences, and short courses.