Most of us perceive the world around us with our five senses and think that what we can see or touch is all there is to reality, but there is so much more beyond what we label as “physical” acting in the world around us. There are fields of energy we are a part of, that have a direct and profound effect on all aspects of our lives. So why not use this knowledge to our advantage? Conventional therapy might work well for many, however, more and more people are realizing that the classical approach doesn’t address all their problems, and they start exploring different paths that might lead to healing. Alternative and Energy modalities focus on using less common techniques to aid our wellbeing. This approach considers all levels of our being, opening new paths and possibilities where there seemed to be no solution. Western culture is beginning to acknowledge the many benefits of the practical wisdom that Indigenous cultures have been using for millennia. Fortunately, Indigenous groups have been able to maintain their connection to the unseen world and despite colonization, this connection has never been lost. Indigenous groups have a profound ability to work with natural phenomena and energies for the benefit of the mind, body, and spirit.
This wisdom and unique style of practice can be applied to our modern world and provide solutions for problems and mental health crises so many of us are struggling with. Scientific research is confirming what our ancestors knew all along - that there’s energy at work, and that we have the power to move and use this energy to heal ourselves and others. Organizations like Heart Math Institute offer a large body of research proving the power of human consciousness and a heart-centred approach to life, rather than a brain-centred one. Research is proving the effectiveness of alternative modalities that work with energy, and, as a result, mainstream society is becoming more open to trying and using different modalities. Energy healing and other less common techniques may be staggeringly more successful when paired with conventional methods. Complementary and alternative techniques are becoming more popular among psychotherapists and clients alike. Alternative techniques tend to focus on the body, mind, and spirit’s alignment. It takes a holistic approach which integrates our multi-layered being into a harmonious whole. Mainstream society is opening up to alternative approaches, exploring the invisible world of energy. In some cases, clients turn to alternative therapy after conventional methods have failed. However, alternative approaches don't have to be a last resort and are highly beneficial when integrated with conventional therapy methods. They can be extremely healing for the mind and spirit and can leave us feeling like a more complete person. Alternative techniques may be used either in support of other forms of therapy or as a sole treatment. There are a variety of professionals specializing in different modalities in this field, offering certified services to their clients.
Read More… Alternative and Energy therapies go beyond our minds and bodies. They place the energy and life force that we carry with us at the foundation of their approaches and work with this energy to heal the mind and body.
Acupuncture is one of the common Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAMs), that are being offered alongside classical therapeutic approaches. Drawing on ancient knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine that regards health as a balanced state of yin and yang energies in the body, acupuncture aims to harmonize the flow of the life force (chi) in order to maintain this balance. The practitioner inserts thin needles into specific points on the clients’ body, influencing and balancing the flow of chi through the energy channels of the body. Although the effects of acupuncture are still being scientifically examined, research suggests that it may help with treating physical pain, neurological issues, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, as well as other mental health issues.
Read More… Acupuncture alters imbalances of the life force in the body by inserting thin needles at specific pressure points to release and redirect the life force to where it naturally should be.
Aromatherapy uses natural aromatic extracts from plants. It has existed for millennia as a natural tool to help harmonize overall wellbeing and promote mental and physical health. Despite the small dosage, plant extracts show beneficial properties for reducing stress and anxiety, alleviating physical pain, and treating certain skin conditions. Aromatherapy can be incorporated into ongoing therapy as an auxiliary tool to increase the efficiency of classical approaches.
Read More… Aromatherapy is typically used alongside other therapy approaches. It can have mood altering abilities and can help place us in a more relaxed state, so we are able to absorb all the benefits of therapy.
Art Therapy offers a space for developing self-awareness and exploring emotions while reducing anxiety and improving self-esteem. Through the process of creating art, sensory, cognitive, emotional, and attentional systems are integrated to form cohesive functioning between our brains and bodies. Art therapy also encourages personal expression and self-awareness and it can be highly empowering for one’s identity. Sometimes, through the artistic process, our bodies will uncover what our brains may be holding subconsciously. This form of therapy might be especially helpful for clients who have difficulty in verbal expression dealing with trauma, because the “language” of expression is visual rather than verbal.
Read More… Art therapy is a useful approach for when we may not be able to verbalize exactly what we are feeling. When we let our minds relax and our hands do the work, our bodies can encapsulate what our words might not be able to.
Biofeedback is a therapeutic process used to draw clients’ awareness to the processes inside their body. During a Biofeedback session, electrical sensors are attached to different places on the body, such as the head or hands, so that internal responses to external stimuli can be monitored and observed. The data from these sensors are projected onto a monitor so that clients can see the changes occurring in their body in real-time. This immediate feedback allows for clients to exercise healthy and efficient responses to stress while reducing maladaptive learned responses. Biofeedback provides clients with effective tools to manage their reactions and increase performance on all levels of functioning. There are several methods in biofeedback, the most common of which are electromyography (EMG) focusing on muscle tension, electroencephalography (EEG), to monitor brain activity, and thermal biofeedback which analyzes skin temperature (Ehrlich, 2009). Another form of biofeedback that is becoming more widely used measures heart rate variability (HRV). This method helps clients achieve emotional, mental and physical wellbeing as well as free-flowing creativity and increased productivity by generating a harmonized heart-centred state of balance and inner peace. Although the exact mechanisms that underlie biofeedback are not clear, its positive effects are indisputable. This method is used to prevent and treat chronic pain and migraines, high blood pressure, depression, ADHD, and other symptoms, and may be successfully applied in combination with other therapeutic methods.
Biofeedback … Biofeedback allows clients to witness the energy changes in their own bodies when responding maladaptively to stressful stimuli. By viewing their learned reaction, clients can see their progress as they heal and change their natural negative reactions to positive, healthy ones.
A Man is Attached to Electrical Sensors Which Reads his Energy Levels in a Biofeedback Session. From “Crestview Recovery”, Crestview Recovery
Breathwork is a form of therapy used to increase self-awareness and accelerate natural healing processes through the application of various breathing techniques. Breathwork may be applied in tandem with other techniques such as music, elements of art, or movement. Breathwork is rooted in the Eastern practices of Yoga and Tai Chi, however, the “modern” concept of Breathwork started to develop during the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Breathwork exists in many different forms, such as Holotropic Breathing, and Re-Birthing or Clarity Breathwork. These types of breathwork can be combined with mindfulness techniques to draw clients’ attention to how the breath moves through the body. Breathwork can also help clients with grounding by shifting their attention from irrational thoughts to physical sensation. The most common issues that may be successfully treated with this modality include depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, and PTSD, as well as chronic pain. Clients need to be aware that Breathwork has the potential to induce hyperventilation and may not be suitable for treating clients with certain conditions.
Read More… Breathwork uses the natural rhythm of breath to channel energy through the body and shift attention from harmful thoughts to body-focused mindfulness. It can help relieve clients from triggered states and ground them in the present moment of life.
A Woman Controls how She is Breathing in a Breathwork Session. From “Healthline”, Healthline
Dance and Movement Therapy has been used as a complementary method in the Western approach to therapy since the 1940s and its positive effects range from helping with depression and anxiety, improving emotional balance, to increased creativity and freedom in self-expression. Movement therapy encourages the client to access their most natural rhythm of movement. This is a sensory as well as an embodied approach that allows clients to move freely and safely in whatever way feels natural and fulfilling. The use of movement can be beneficial for illnesses or disorders that cause fatigue or lethargy since the endorphins and empowerment that come from movement sessions can be highly rewarding both mentally and physically for clients.
Read More… Dance and movement therapy allow the client to freely express themselves in a safe environment free of judgement. This can be a very empowering form of therapy since it allows individuals to use movement as an outlet for their problems in a way that is uniquely theirs.
Hypnotherapy guides clients into a state of deep relaxation while awareness is raised above everyday levels. Hypnotherapy is intended to quiet the consciousness in order for the therapist to access the subconscious mind. Here, the client and therapist can work together to explore irrational thought patterns, memories, limiting beliefs and unhealthy thought patterns interfering with the client’s wellbeing in the fully conscious state. After finding the source of the client’s issues, the hypnotherapist is then able to suggest appropriate ideas to correct the unhealthy thought patterns. Suggestions might include lifestyle changes (quitting smoking or losing weight), confronting addictions, tackling phobias, or self-concept enhancing suggestions (improving low confidence and low self-worth). Traditionally, hypnotherapy has also been used to reduce physical pain and help with stress management, but it can aid in healing mental health disorders as well. The mind responds very well to ideas introduced in the hypnotic state since the irrational barriers that our minds have created to protect us from perceived threats are taken down with the conscious state. With these barriers still in place, the root of what we need to get at may remain insurmountable, thus hypnotherapy may be required to break down these blockages and open the mind to alternative methods of functioning. Since the therapist is able to enter this state with the client quite quickly, hypnotherapy might bring profound effects after the first session and might offer solutions for problems clients have been struggling with for years in a relatively short amount of time. While the idea of hypnotherapy may be daunting and often carries certain stereotypes, a trained hypnotherapist is a completely trustworthy professional whose objective is to provide the most efficient and confidential service.
Read More…Hypnotherapy is a form of therapy that accesses our subconscious. Once the subconscious is accessed, the maladaptive modes of behaviour that exist there can be reworked to restore our conscious reactions to them.
A Patient is Put in a Relaxed State From the Guidance of a Therapist. From “GI Society”, IBS and Hypnosis
Light Therapy became popular during the 1980s as a method for easing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder which is caused by lack of sunlight. Continuous lack of light, especially during the fall and winter months, affects the balance of chemicals in the brain. It can lead to depressive symptoms since lack of sunlight can alter mood regulating hormones in the brain such as serotonin and melatonin. Light therapy uses exposure to intense light to trigger the activation of certain hormones in the brain. Light therapy has been known to ease depressive symptoms, correct sleep disorders, and alleviate other psychological issues that might be linked to a lack of light.
Read More… Light therapy exposes clients to specific light frequencies that they are missing from their natural environment. This type of therapy is most often used to combat SAD but can also help regulate sleep and wake cycles and stimulate hormone secretion in the brain.
Meditation is becoming one of the most frequently used methods for achieving and maintaining harmony and peace at all levels of being. There has been an increase in the amount of research completed on the beneficial effects of meditation such as its ability to improve concentration, decrease anxiety levels, and effectively manage stress, however, more research is still needed at this point in regards to the degree to which meditation can help mental disorders. The research that has emerged so far asserts that the technique of meditation may be most successful when used as a part of one’s daily practice for calming and relaxation, and can be an efficient tool for improving emotional and mental health when put into practice on a daily basis. The two basic approaches to meditation are mindfulness-based techniques (focusing on the breath and increasing the awareness of the present moment), and concentrative meditation (focusing on specific word or mantra to occupy the conscious mind and to open space for a deeper awareness). Both of these approaches can help client’s gain clarity and insight, reach higher levels of concentration, and promote better well-being. Meditation and its different forms may be incorporated into an ongoing treatment to enhance the positive effect of therapy.
Read More… Meditation is used to help clients reach relaxed and calm states so that they can effectively address their irrational thoughts and beliefs. Meditation is meant to give control to the client so that they are able to recognize and adapt to their thoughts in calm, and healthy ways.
Music Therapy and Sound Healing techniques such as gong baths and Tibetan bowl sessions are becoming increasingly popular. Sound and its vibrations have profound effects on the human body as well as our states of consciousness. These techniques have been used for healing and as a part of sacred ceremonies by Indigenous cultures for thousands of years. Science confirms the fact that our cells respond to the sound in measurable ways. Our bodies are aligned through several energy points that run vertically down our spine. In some cultures, these are referred to as Chakras. These energy points can be positively affected by sound vibration since our cells naturally carry such vibrations as well. Since energy flows through these concentrated points along our spines, the energy in each can be realigned through exposure to sound vibration. When the energies here are aligned, positive outcomes both mentally and physically have been shown to pursue. Essentially, music therapy focuses on creating such an environment where clients are able to relax and explore their emotions and thoughts. Its calming and soothing effects help lower blood pressure, alleviate physical pain, anxiety, and depression, and may be beneficial in supporting and enhancing the effects of other treatments. Different forms of music therapy may include not only listening and singing but also writing music and lyric analysis.
Read More… Music therapy and sound healing techniques are used to realign the bodies flow of energy. When we respond to stress, energy flow can be trapped or changed and the sound that these sessions produce prompt our cells to heal the disrupted flow of energy, allowing us to return to normal levels of functioning.
Reiki is a hands-on energy healing method that works with the flow of the life force in the human body. Our life force can be negatively impacted by unhealthy thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, both on the conscious and unconscious level. These negative beliefs eventually erode our life force, disrupting its natural flow, and diminishing it in some areas. When our life force is disturbed, we can experience many symptoms such as immune system dysfunction, fatigue, tension, and distress, among others. Reiki works to channel the life force to areas that need it and re-establish the natural flow of the life force through the body. A trained practitioner uses his or her hands in specific positions to pass the universal healing energy through the clients’ body and administer positive energy to areas that have been eroded by negative thoughts and beliefs. When the charged positive energy is administered to points on the physical body, it breaks the bond between the negative beliefs and thoughts that have attached themselves to the life force, therefore, the energy pathway is restored, allowing the life force to carry on its natural path. Reiki sessions help with relaxation and emotional healing and may enhance memory and ability to cope with a fast-paced world and work life. On the physical level, this modality proves effective in enhancing the body’s natural healing ability and immune system efficiency. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure and reducing stress hormone levels, relieving physical issues such as arthritis, sciatica and chronic fatigue syndrome to name a few. Reiki may be a valuable tool to help restore balance and health at all levels of being.
Read More… Reiki holds the assumption that negative thought patterns and beliefs hinder the flow of the life force in the body. A trained professional can tell where energy blockages are occurring and will use their hands to move the trapped energy to where it should be in the body, allowing us to let go of tension, distress, and general system imbalances.
Shamanic Healing is a traditional method used to connect with the spiritual world and has been practiced for thousands of years by Indigenous cultures. The Shaman embarks on what is called a Journey to the spirit realm in order to retrieve parts of the spirit that have departed from the physical body. This approach is becoming increasingly popular and many “modern” therapists train to become shamanic healers, learning the skills practiced by generations of Aboriginal nations. Shamanic healing begins with the Shaman entering a trance state. This is often achieved using drums or other music to mimic the energy of the physical world and to support a relaxed state for the Shaman. It is believed that individuals who have experienced trauma have lost a part of their spirit which will need to be retrieved by a Shaman who will guide it back to the individual. In order to retrieve the lost part of the spirit, the Shaman departs on a “journey” in this trance state, aiding an individual to resolve their issues and to receive healing on a spiritual as well as the physical plane. Often times, spirit animals and guides are invoked to help with the healing process. Shamanic healing may be beneficial especially for clients after suffering a life-altering trauma or other profound experience, and who are struggling to find solutions for their issues through the classic therapy approach.
Read More… Shamanic healing is a traditional healing approach that combines the physical world with the spirit world. This approach assumes that when trauma occurs, part of the spirit departs from the physical body and a Shaman is required to retrieve it from the spirit world. Once the lost part of the spirit is restored, the client will be restored to a state of harmony between the body, mind, and spirit.
Wilderness Therapy is an adventure-based approach using nature and natural settings, returning clients to the basics of life while eliminating modern distractions and technologies. Part of this experience-based approach includes engaging in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and survival skills, as well as individual and group therapy sessions. All these components work in unison to help clients let go of unhealthy beliefs and behaviour patterns, and instill positive and nourishing ways of approaching life while becoming more resilient and grounded in their own selves. Research on the effectiveness of wilderness therapy has indicated that individuals became more confident in their natural place in the world and the group sessions were found to encourage a feeling of connectedness and belonging. This approach is also highly effective since it frees individuals from distractions and technology. Social media can be especially harmful to individuals healing since it can cause a lot of insecurity. Nature’s calming and healing influence plays a vital part in the success of wilderness therapy programs, and due to the growing demand, the number of practitioners and organizations offering this type of therapy is growing.
Read More… Wilderness therapy is used to immerse clients in the serenity and beauty of the outdoors. It allows clients to acknowledge and work on the issues they are facing without the distractions of technology and social and work spheres.
Yoga is a system of practices which integrates the mind, body and spirit, using movement and postures, breathing techniques and meditation. It has been used for thousands of years to enhance and maintain physical and spiritual wellbeing and health. Many clients may benefit from practicing yoga as an auxiliary method to enhance mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Yoga further integrates an individual's spiritual essence which is aligned with the flow of energy in the body. Yoga takes a holistic approach by readjusting the spiritual, mental, and physical self, leaving individuals feeling balanced and unified at the end of a session. Profound consciousness shifts may occur while practising yoga which may have a positive influence on clients’ lives in many, often unforeseen, ways. There are different types of Yoga, including: Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram or Hatha to choose from, and an experienced yoga teacher can be a precious guide on our journey within while supporting our physical health.
Read More… Yoga is used to regulate the client’s mind, body, and breath. By focusing on breathing and the movement of the body, the conscious mind can be quieted, allowing for our bodies to work away the stress that we are encountering. Yoga is a great accomplice to other therapy methods because it integrates meditation, breathwork, and energy techniques into its practice.
References: Mamtami, R., Cimino, A. (2002). A primer of complementary and alternative medicine and Its relevance in the treatment of mental health problems. Psychiatric Quarterly, 73(4), 367-381 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1020472218839 Good Therapy (2018, May 15). Dance/movement therapy (DMT). Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/dance-movement-therapy Good Therapy (2016, April 18). Art therapy. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/art-therapy Mayo Clinic (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651 Eberth, J., Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Springer US, 3(3), 174-189. doi: 10.1007/s12671-012-0101-x Raghu, M. (2018). A study to explore the effects of sound vibrations on consciousness. Horizon Research Publishing, 6(3), 75-88 http://www.hrpub.org/download/20180730/IJRH2-19290514.pdf The International Centre for Reiki Training (2015, April 1). How does Reiki work. Retrieved from https://www.reiki.org/faqs/how-does-reiki-work Centre of Excellence (2019, April 22). What is Shamanic healing. Retrieved from https://www.centreofexcellence.com/shamanic-healing/