"I am so grateful for this treatment" (UK-based Service User between ages 11 - 19)
Managing your mental health is a deeply personal experience. After all, no-one’s head approaches the world in exactly the same way, so when things are going less than ideally, we all need to find our own solutions. For some, the traditional route of counselling and/or medication provides an appropriate support mechanism to cope with mental health struggles. However, this will not be true for everyone. Some people’s characters do not respond well to traditional routes, or at times there are health reasons preventing them from these treatments: enter alternative therapies.
Now, we’re not saying that “healing crystals” and the spirit of Elvis will instantly cure all your mental health issues. Some people do require a more traditional approach in order to make progress. However, credit has to be given to more unconventional therapies which have been proven to benefit those with anxiety and depression. As we understand that practitioners will work with a variety of vulnerable people in their practice, we recognise the value in understanding the different alternative therapies available to service users. Good practice requires a degree of open-mindedness, in order to adapt your work to each situation so that you’re supporting the individual in the best possible way.
In the spirit of thinking outside the box in regard to mental health treatments, let’s take a look at one such unorthodox idea: biodynamic massages.
Biodynamic massage is a psychotherapeutic form of massage concerned with the integration of all aspects of an individual – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual within the context of an individual’s life and relationships at home, at work and at leisure. It’s a complete treatment, inspired from Norwegian methods of physiotherapy and brought to the UK by psychologist, physiotherapist and analyst Gerda Boyesen.
Complementary and alternative therapies typically take a holistic approach to your physical and mental health; looking at your physical and emotional wellbeing together, rather than as separate issues. They can either work alongside a more traditional route (complementary therapies) or they can act as alternatives to ones that can be found normally through the NHS. Biodynamic massages can act as both a complementary and alternative to the standard mental health treatment process, as they can be incorporated within all other physical, psychosomatic, psychological, medical and energy based clinical treatments.
We all understand that mental health issues can manifest themselves through physical symptoms. People with out of control anxiety can experience chest pains. Those suffering through bouts of depression can face unexplained aches and changes in appetite. Practitioners are taught to recognise these symptoms and understand how to treat the mental illness triggering them; but rarely seem to give much credence to therapies that unite mental and physical health.
"When considering mental health and physical health, the two should not be thought of as separate” (Mental Health Foundation)
Biodynamic massages aim to reinstate homeostasis balance in the body for clients who (due to psychological distress) are noticing fluid retention, gastro-intestinal issues, migraines or other symptoms. This alternative therapy has been noted to aid those experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression, mood changes and stress – providing the individual with a relaxing and enjoyable way to process their mental health struggles.
We all feel better when we’re in tune with our bodies; that’s why exercise is a highly recommended element in mental health treatments and yoga has such a wide following from stressed people. There’s a link between our bodies and our minds that we can’t fully define, and alternative therapies like biodynamic massages understand that. Yes, it may not be for everyone, but surely, we owe it to the vulnerable people who could respond well to a treatment like this to ensure that our social work community is educated about the effectiveness of alternative therapies? Mental health practitioners don’t need to suddenly recommend biodynamic massages to every service user they encounter, but being aware of all the different treatments that are out there and the types of people who they have been proven to help, might ensure that professionals can prescribe more personalised and effective plans.
One Stop Social has a whole range of helpful resources to help develop your practice. Whether your service user prefers the more traditional treatments for their mental health, or is open to trying alternative therapies, it’s important to ensure your offering them the best support for their situation.