Being in private practice for over 20 years, I have come to realize that most things in life aren't black and white, but rather have varying "shades of grey," to quote a popular novel. Oftentimes clients come in thinking that traditional therapies are the only option. However, as we collaborate, we sometimes find that traditional is not always the proper fit. Frequently, a combination of traditional and alternative treatments works best.
As individuals, we carry our own unique qualities and personal stories. Doesn't it make sense that the mental health treatment should also be tailored specifically to target this uniqueness? No single modality is right for all people, all of the time. It is sometimes necessary to think outside of the box.
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In the initial session with a client, I try to get a sense of what will work best. I have a pretty good gut instinct, but at times I can make the wrong call. I remember a client looking at a picture of the chakra system in my office and asking me about it. This client ended up wanting to end each session with some energy work, such as Reiki: I would not have thought this to be the case. In using Reiki—a form of energy therapy which uses touch, massages, and breathing—this client was able to access feelings in a way that did not require words. Reiki was extremely effective in managing the intense anxiety that was dominating this client's life. Sometimes we also did a little "talk therapy," and that worked just fine.
For those who are unfamiliar with Reiki, it is a healing technique that utilizes the flow of energy to restore the natural balance and harmony of the whole person. It was rediscovered by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui in the 1920s, and dates back over 3,000 years to ancient Tibet. During a Reiki treatment, energy radiates from the practitioner's hands, which are placed gently on the body or even just above it. The energy flows automatically without any effort. Individual experiences will differ according to one's sensitivity level.
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Using alternative treatments like Reiki, which involves balancing the physical and emotional body, can help in getting clients out of their heads and into their hearts; enabling the release of pent-up resentments, grief, and fears that have kept them from moving forward in their lives. For those with a lengthy history of mental illness which includes working with multiple clinicians, this non-traditional method may help address symptoms that have been resistant to traditional forms of therapy. These people may respond well to changing things up a bit. Of course, this is something that requires evaluation and assessment by someone who is qualified and proficient in working from both ends of the spectrum, but it should not be ruled out. The alternative might just be what is needed.
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