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What is integrative mental healthcare?
Years of experience 26
In a few words, integrative mental healthcare:
- is a person-centered approach to mental health care
- that takes into account the needs, preferences and circumstances of each unique person
- focuses on maintaining optimal health and treating symptoms not disorders
- uses both mainstream approaches like medications and psychotherapy, as well as complementary and alternative therapies
- is based on the best available evidence
The conventional biomedical model of mental health care widely practiced in the U.S. and many other countries emphasizes the use of potent prescription
medications to treat ‘disorders.’ Medications will probably continue to play an important role in mental health care—especially for managing symptoms of severe mental health problems such as bipolar disorder and psychosis—however non-medication treatments will play an increasingly important role in mental healthcare as more research evidence accumulates showing that they are both safe and effective. In contrast to the conventional biomedical model, integrative mental healthcare is concerned with maintaining optimal wellness and managing symptoms of each unique person in the context of their values, preferences and circumstances. Advantages of integrative mental health care over the conventional biomedical model, include:
- improved response to treatment
- reducing the dosage of a prescription medication
- reducing adverse effects of prescription medications
- saving money on treatment costs
- having greater control over your symptoms
- greater emphasis on maintaining wellness
- developing a more personalized plan for treatment and prevention
It is important to point out that integrative mental healthcare does not reject the use of prescription medications, psychotherapy or other mainstream approaches or discount their benefits for mental health problems. Medications and psychotherapy are often beneficial and safe and bring enormous relief to human suffering. Integrative practitioners often prescribe medications and recommend psychotherapy but go beyond this limited model of care. In addition to established conventional biomedical therapies integrative practitioners also recommend a wide range of non-medication treatment approaches such as herbals, vitamins and other natural supplements, whole body approaches such as exercise and massage, changes in the diet, mind-body practices and energy therapies such as acupuncture and healing touch, and many other ‘alternative’ therapies where scientific evidence supports their safe and effective use.
Because integrative mental health care focuses on each person’s unique needs and circumstances, treatment is often highly individualized. This means that there is no single ‘best’ treatment for any particular mental health problem, but each person may have a ‘most appropriate’ treatment plan depending on the particular symptoms they are experiencing in the context of their unique life story, values, preferences and circumstances.
To read further, you can explore my series of e-books on the topic here.