Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Take a Holistic Approach to Your Physical and Mental Health

What Are They?

Complementary and alternative therapies typically take a holistic approach to your physical and mental health. This means that they consider all aspects of your physical and emotional wellbeing as a whole, rather than treating particular symptoms separately. For example, some complementary therapies focus on the mind, body and spirit or on the flow of energy through your body.

Many of these approaches have roots in ancient Eastern philosophies of health, or the kinds of traditional healing methods used widely before the development of the treatment
models currently used by the NHS. By contrast, NHS treatment models are are largely based on clinical evidence and academic research (sometimes called 'modern medicine' or
'conventional medicine').

Complementary vs Alternative Therapy?

In general:

  • 'Complementary' describes therapies which may be used alongside treatments offered by your doctor (such as yoga, massage and meditation)
  • 'Alternative' describes approaches which are generally meant to replace the treatments offered by your doctor (such as Traditional Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine, or some herbal remedies such as St John's wort)

Some people may use either of these terms to broadly describe any kind of treatment that isn't available through the NHS.

Why Might I Try Them

There are many reasons you might decide to try complementary or alternative therapies.

For example:

  • You don't want the treatment your doctor has offered (such as psychiatric medication or talking therapies)
  • You've already tried the treatments your doctor has offered and they haven't suited you (for example, you haven't found a psychiatric medication that works, or it's caused unwanted side effects)
  • You're on an NHS waiting list for treatment, but you need help to manage your symptoms right away.
  • You want more options to try in addition to the treatments your doctor has offered
  • You don't agree with your doctor's approach and you want to take another approach to looking after your mental health

Whatever your situation, if you have any worries about your mental health you can seek advice from your GP, and talk through all your options through with someone you trust.

"When I could no longer take SSRI antidepressants due to side effects, I tried St John’s wort as an alternative. It has definitely helped with my depression and my mood has lifted quite a lot."
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