Alternative Treatments in Mental Health Give Hope

By David L. Podos

For many people experiencing a mental difficulty, healing can be quite challenging.

Often it can be much more daunting than to deal with a typical physical health issue.

For example, you break your leg, it is put in a cast, you may or may not have to use crutches and or a cane to get around. To the outside world it is obvious that your leg is broken. It is also obvious to you. There is no ambiguity; the leg is broken, period. Pain medication may be prescribed as well as physical therapy. In time the bone will heal, the cast will come off and you will be back living your life pretty much the same way prior to your broken leg.

The intervention and healing are standard medical protocol. Your broken bone should heal within six to eight weeks unless it is severe.  However, with mental health issues, things are often not as clear cut even when employing standard treatment modalities.

The truth is, for all our medical and technological advancements, the human brain still remains for the most part, a mystery. Because of this, mental health treatments can often times be “the best guess” treatment. This is not to say that medicines or therapies that are used exclusively in the treatment of mental health illnesses do not work. In fact, many medicines as well as trained therapists have a very high efficacy rating when it comes to helping patients.  However, not all medicines work and many of those that can benefit patients have numerous side effects that often cause additional health risks.

For some therapists, it can be a task to come up with the “right” therapy that will work. For instance, therapists might be comfortable (or “stuck”) with a certain therapeutic modality that they prefer to use. However, the patient may not be as adaptable to that treatment.

Some patients have a difficult time with just going to therapy.  They might fear they will be judged by the therapist or they have a misunderstanding of how the therapy works altogether. For others, just the thought that they need to see a therapist can elicit feelings of loss of self-worth or despair, thus making the therapist’s job more challenging. A well-trained and seasoned professional is able to work through these roadblocks and help find the best treatment for their patients.

While cognitive therapy is one of the more widely used and popular therapies that are employed by mental health professionals, along with psychotropic drugs, there are other options that show favorable outcomes in treating mental health illness with little or no side effects.

The website NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) names a few.

Vagus nerve stimulation

The vagus nerve carries messages between your brain and other areas of your body, controlling important functions such as heart rate, digestion, immune response and your mood. Treatment with VNS to help alleviate mental health symptoms involves stimulation of the vagus nerve using a pulse generator by a trained medical professional.

For those interested in exploring alternative approaches to mood management, consider consulting a microdosing coach. More information from this source can provide insights into potential strategies for enhancing well-being.

Deep brain stimulation

Deep brain stimulation is used to treat symptoms of movement disorders, such as tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease, and conditions like dystonia and treatment-resistant epilepsy. DBS is also used to treat severe obsessive-compulsive disorder that hasn’t responded to traditional treatment. Although DBS is used less frequently for OCD, studies indicate that it can be effective for debilitating symptoms. DBS is a surgical procedure that uses electricity to directly stimulate sites in the brain.

Jim Davis is the executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Mohawk Valley located in Utica.

Davis, a highly trained, educated and seasoned therapist, is aware of alternative treatments as well as new emerging treatments in mental health care and comments on a few of them.

“EMDR, stands for eye movement desensitization reprocessing. While EMDR has been around for a while in comparison to some of the older therapies it is relatively new. It has to do with rapid eye movement and processing traumatic experiences, which helps to release trauma and promotes self-healing. We actually have a trained EMDR therapist on staff.”

Another alternative mentioned on the NAMI website is transcranial magnetic stimulation. This is a non invasive treatment that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. TMS is safe and effective and is used to treat a range of mental and physical health conditions, including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, pain and substance use disorders and others. This can be particularly important for individuals who have not benefited from other treatments. For example, 30% – 64% of patients report an improvement in symptoms of depression.

The method of application for TMS may sound like something out of science fiction. But it works for many people, is safe and well-tolerated. It is in some aspects like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The doctor places your head under a machine. The machine has a coil inside that sits over your head. That coil sends magnetic pulses through your skull and to the part of the brain that regulates mood.

While the Samaritan Counseling Center does not offer transcranial magnetic stimulation, Davis commented on its use.

“This is definitely a new emerging treatment for mental health illnesses that shows great promise,” Davis said. “While we do not offer it here, I understand that there is a clinic in Syracuse that does.”

Davis also mentioned that psilocybin, (a species of mushrooms) known colloquially as “magic mushrooms” is drawing more attention today from clinicians and therapists for treating mental health disorders.

“This kind of therapy is done by a highly trained clinician therapist and in a very controlled manner,” Davis said.

For more information on these and other therapies, contact the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Mohawk Valley at 315-724-5173.