Five Drug-Free Ways to Foster Mental Health

By · August 28, 2009 · Filed in Information

Each year, millions of dollars are spent on medications promising relief to people suffering the symptoms of mental illness.  Recently though, some physicians have opted to steer their patients towards alternate, drug-free treatments either in conjunction with, or in place of these prescriptions.  These treatment plans offer patients additional options to explore before turning to medications which can often have troublesome and even dangerous side effects.  Each therapy is unique, but they all seem to share one common characteristic:  Unlike popular medications such as Prozac and Effexor, which merely treat symptoms of depression and anxiety, these alternate treatments seek out and treat the underlying causes of the illnesses.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

· Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction was developed by Jon-Kabat Zinn, a PhD at the University of Massachusetts, in 1979.  MBSR uses intentional, present-moment awareness to help people tap into whatever is happening in their life as it unfolds, without judgment or curiosity.  The process, based on mindful meditation, helps people to become more skillful and creative in their responses to real world stimuli, eliminating destructive habitual patterns such as anxiously awaiting the future, chronically focusing on the past or just going through the motions of life without regard to what’s happening in the now.  It is universal and easily accessible, allowing people the ability to develop intelligent and thoughtful reactions to events and circumstances as they are happening, and to construct unique, healthy reactions in response.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

· Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is similar to MBSR, in that it combines present-moment meditative practices with conventional cognitive therapy techniques.  The therapy, developed by Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale, and based on Zinn’s MBSR model, allows participants to cultivate a right-now awareness of what is happening within them.  MBCT uses Eastern meditative techniques and cognitive therapy to help patients become acquainted with the different modes of the mind that can often characterize mood disorders and allows for the development of new, healthier responses to harmful stimuli.  By focusing on what “is” rather than all the potential negatives that “could be,” MBCT helps people break harmful, repetitive responses and patterns that can lead to a variety of disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Subconscious Restructuring

· Most treatments for conditions such as depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) look for external causes for the trauma affecting individuals, and then seek to treat that cause.  This can be a very long and expensive journey for patients.  While certainly well-meaning, treatments such as these are nothing more than a series of educated guesses that can take years to complete and are often completely ineffective.  Subconscious Restructuring offers something quite different.

Developed by PhD Kelly Burris, SR coaching takes a look at how individuals process information at the deepest level of their subconscious.  It guides patients through a method which allows them to recognize and have immediate access to potentially harmful subconscious patterns, and thus be able to alter or eliminate them. Using this technique, people are able to identify the internal cause of their disorder, rather than speculate on possible external factors.

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

· Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is a noninvasive medical technique designed to magnetically excite the neurons of the brain.  Weak, electric currents are introduced into the tissue that makes up the brain which in turn triggers brain activity that can be studied and evaluated.

rTMS, as it is commonly referred, lasts longer than a single stimulation and it is thought to either increase or decrease the excitability of what doctors call the corticospinal pathways within the brain.  Scientists believe this stimulation technique can effect changes in the synoptic efficacy of the brain and has been offered as a treatment solution for long-term depression and other illnesses.

Magnetic Field Therapy

· Magnetic Field Therapy is a process that uses magnets to help treat mental and physical ailments.  The theory behind the efficacy of MFR is that in order to maintain health, the body must be in balance with its electromagnetic field.  Utilizing electrically charged or static magnets, practitioners seek to alter the magnetic field in patients with emotional disorders, by bringing their bodies into balance with the earth and the magnetic field that surrounds it.

The advantages of the therapies listed above, in addition to other available treatments not mentioned, are significant.  All of the treatment plans focus on the causes of mental and mood disorders, and they give people who are suffering from the often frightening symptoms, a variety of treatment options to explore before resigning themselves to a medication ritual that is often arbitrary and dangerous.


Great observations. What are your thoughts regarding TDCS, transcranial direct current stimulation. Dr Felipe Fregni at Harvard seems do some interesting work with this.

Thanks for the comment Ross. Yes tDCS is also non-evasive and when coupled with repetitive electrical stimulation can have some promising effects on cortical spreading depression and are both potential treatment tools for certain neurological and psychiatric disorders.

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