- Integrative therapies blend mind-body options with conventional medical care and self-care.
- Therapy through art can be used to work through childhood trauma, cope with disability, relieve stress, and more.
- For older adults and those with Parkinson's disease, tai chi can be helpful for maintaining balance and coordination.
As you create whole person health, you may want to try some new therapies. Maybe you’re interested in a new way to manage those pesky spring allergies, or you’re wondering if tai chi really helps with balance. Or perhaps you’d like to heal emotional wounds from the past.
Integrative therapies are called “integrative” because they allow you to blend mind-body options with conventional medical care and self-care. Exploring these evidence-supported treatments could help you find a new healing practice to boost your mind, body, or spiritual and emotional health. Read on to learn more.
Acupuncture for whole health
Precisely how acupuncture works is still not completely understood. The traditional Chinese medicine explanation is that it affects the flow of energy, or chi, through the body. Scientific research suggests that the placement of acupuncture needles may affect nerves and connective tissue directly to create a healing response.
Acupuncture can be a part of whole person health. It may not be all you need, but it does have benefits. For example, Christine tried acupuncture for her chronic cough and daily fevers. While the sessions made her feel refreshed, she eventually needed prescription medication for what turned out to be allergy-related pneumonia. Nevertheless, she had discovered a new therapy and met a new practitioner as part of her healing journey.
Research on acupuncture is ongoing. In fact, one of the most recent studies suggests it may be helpful for hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) related to COVID-19.1
Healing trauma with beauty
Therapy through … art? If it sounds a little ethereal, we’re here to share that this treatment is actually quite down to earth and effective. Returning warfighters and other service members have turned to art for years to heal wounds that often don’t show on the outside. This creative way of healing can also be used to work through childhood trauma, cope with disability, relieve stress, and more. (Watch a video from the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) for a moving portrayal of art therapy at work in an environment that serves veterans.)
If you’ve ever picked up a coloring book to relax, you’ve tried a type of art therapy. Or you might build furniture, make mosaics – as Chuck, who's currently going through treatment for stage IV colorectal cancer, is doing – or tie fishing flies.
Music therapy is another way to boost your health through aesthetic beauty and, in many cases, an activity such as playing an instrument or singing. If you’ve never tried singing with a group, drumming, or releasing feelings as you move to music, now may be the time.
Healing hands for health
Massage therapy is something you may have already tried, but it’s worth revisiting its benefits for mental and physical health, including anxiety. Massage stimulates the relaxation response and has specific effects on muscles and blood flow as well. Make sure you find a trained and licensed massage therapist. Bioenergy medicine modalities, or biofield therapies, include Reiki, therapeutic touch, and faith-based laying on of hands. You may find bioenergy medicine calming and grounding, or helpful for healing trauma. In fact, you may have already encountered it in the world of pet care. Eva, a dog groomer, earned her Reiki certification specifically to help manage nervous pets. “It’s soothing for so many of them, and it’s a medication-free option,” she says.
Tai chi for balance, and not just physical
Tai chi is an ancient form of movement designed to create balance, calm, and strength in the mind, body, and spirit. If you have practiced a traditional sport or discipline, or are simply interested in calming and coordinating your mind and body, you may find that tai chi helps. For older adults and those with Parkinson's disease, tai chi can be especially helpful for maintaining balance and coordination. For knee arthritis, it can be as helpful as physical therapy. Tai chi is often done in a group setting, which adds a social benefit.
Breath work has been called “the secret to emotional regulation,” and once you try it, you’ll understand. Breath work has cardiovascular benefits, helps with attention, and can help you manage asthma, anxiety, and COPD, among other conditions like post-COVID syndrome. (We use breath work in this meditation video, which is recommended for patients.)
1. Hu H, Lin X, Fan L, Fang L, Zhou J, Gao H. Acupuncture treatment for Covid-19-associated sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. QJM. 2023 Mar 6:hcad028. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcad028. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36882180.