Mental Health Alternatives

Psychology and psychiatry aren't the only fields that try to keep us functioning and fulfilled. At least four alternative fields are in the game, all gaining recognition and support as millions seek to learn all the options in their search for help.

The federal government's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is funding efforts to see what works and what doesn't. In the meantime, here's a thumbnail look at major alternatives.

AYURVEDA

History and Philosophy

Ayurveda, meaning "The Science of Life" in Sanskrit, finds its roots in ancient Indian Vedic culture. Mental health consists of a balance between the three "life forces": movement, digestion and structure.

Treatment

Focuses on rebalance using psychology (mind-body), diet, sleep patterns, lifestyle and herbs to treat the whole person.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Requirements and Regulations

Not yet licensed or regulated by state or federal agencies.

Cost of Year of Treatment

About $1,000

Learn More

  • The Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity, Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha (Ayurveda Holistic Center Press, 1998)
  • California College of Ayurveda, (530) 274-9100

TRADITIONAL ORIENTAL MEDICINE

History and Philosophy

Acupuncture first appeared in print in the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine in 200 B.C.—the "bible" of Oriental Medicine. Views body as a system of energy: When this energy, or "qi," is blocked or weakened, illness arises.

Treatment

Acupuncture is combined with herbs, exercise (Tai Chi or Qi Gong), moxibustion or acupressure to maintain mental health.

Requirements and Regulations

Master's of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Twenty-seven states require license; state boards set standards.

Cost of Year of Treatment

About $100 per visit; insurance may cover

Learn More

  • www.acupuncture.com
  • The American Association of Oriental Medicine's Guide to Chinese Herbal Medicine, David Molony (Berkley, 1998)
  • Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, (212) 982-3456

HOMEOPATHY

History and Philosophy

Founded in the early 19th century by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. Philosophy: "like cures like"—medicine is tailored to elicit the symptoms of illness in order to help build up the immune system.

Treatment

Practitioners choose from 2,000 over-the-counter low-dosage medications derived from plants, animals and minerals.

Requirements and Regulations

Certification after completion of a three- to four-year program. Not yet licensed or regulated by state or federal agencies

Cost of Year of Treatment

About $1,100

Learn More

  • www.homeopathic.com
  • 10 Natural Remedies That Can Save Your Life, James F. Balch (Doubleday, 1999)
  • New England School of Homeopathy (413) 256-5949

NATUROPATHY

History and Philosophy

"Naturopathy"—coined in the U.S. only 100 years ago—has its roots in ancient cultures and medicine. It integrates botanical and oriental medicine, nutrition, homeopathy and acupuncture with Western procedures.

Treatment

When treating mental illness, focuses on the whole person using diet, herbs, vitamins and often acupuncture.

Requirements and Regulations

Only 11 states currently license naturopathic physicians. Many other states are considering legislation.

Cost of Year of Treatment

About $1,000

Learn More

MAINSTREAM WESTERN METHODS

History and Philosophy

In 1792 French physician Philippe Pinel cast off the chains from insane patients, saying behavior problems were "illnesses," requiring talk and medication to cure.

Treatment

Diagnoses and treats the symptoms and causes using a combination of psychotherapy and/or medication.

Requirements and Regulations

All 50 states license psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors, and 42 license family therapists.

Cost of Year of Treatment

$50-$150 per visit; insurance may cover

Learn More

  • American Psychological Association: www.apa.org
  • American Psychiatric Association: www.psych.org
  • The Surgeon General's Report On Mental Health
  • All major universities nationwide

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