Throughout history in the East and the West, healers have recognized the importance of diet, and strived to understand its health-promoting and healing powers. Only relatively recently, with the development of sophisticated scientific tools of measurement, have researchers begun to appreciate how and why this is the case. The explosion of interest in nutrition has led to fascinating revelations, most of which confirm the opinions of ancient medical practitioners, while uncovering new and exciting opportunities to understand how we can improve mental health through dietary manipulation.

Modern medicine has developed some truly extraordinary ways of accelerating and enhancing healing. But as fast as medical science forges ahead with high-tech methods, the older, gentler modes of healing acquire renewed appeal. In many countries that boast state-of-the-art medicine, many people use non-conventional therapies, such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, or massage - all healing techniques that are hundreds or even thousands of years old.

Not surprisingly, researchers are confirming what traditional healers have always believed: There is a constant interplay between our emotions, beliefs, and actions and our mind and body. The food we eat, the air we breathe, the exercise we get, and how much we laugh or cry all have a direct bearing on our health. This interaction—played out at every level of our physical, emotional being and spiritual self—affects all biochemical, structural, and psychosocial systems.

Thanks to modern science, there is a large body of research on how lifestyle changes and complimentary and alternative therapies affect mental health. As you read about how a particular modality helps a specific mental health problem—such as how Qigong alleviates depression—remember that it may help other disorders as well. When weighing your options, consider using similar modalities. For example, if there isn’t a Qigong class near you, look for something that is energetically similar, such as Tai Chi or Aikido.

For the most part, the complementary and alternative therapies listed in this text have been well-researched. There are many more therapies not listed that have been helpful in attenuating mental health problems. Take responsibility for your own health and find out what’s available in your area.

In order to get the most out of any health care system, it's helpful to be your own health advocate. Whether you’re at the acupuncturist or the psychotherapist, campaigning for your health makes sense. Next time you visit a health care practitioner, ask them which patient is easier to help; one who is involved in his or her treatment plan, or one who is not. When we’re enthused about getting and staying healthy, our team of health care professionals get excited, too.

For more information on using alternative therapies in mental health counseling visit

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is the author of Healing and Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health and Fasting: An Exceptional Human Experience. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Doctorate in Naturopathy and accreditations as a Nutritionist, Herbalist, Hypnotherapist, and Registered Addiction Specialist. She provides counseling and psychotherapy in San Jose, California. To learn about her private practice, visit her website