Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used? (Some examples are: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy, ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS)
A open approach…
Part of me wanted to start my answer to today’s challenge question by explaining how I am a modern kind of guy who is totally willing to embrace new and/or alternative types of therapies and treatments.
But then the sensible and honest part of me took over and reminded me that I am simply not that kind of guy at all.
Ok. A fairly more realistic approach…
In truth, I am far too cautious (or as I call it – sensible) for that. And, in truth, I need to properly research something before I throw myself headlong into it.
That is not to say, however, that I am against ‘alternative’ treatments or therapies. Because the truth is that I am not against them. I just need to know something about them and to be assured of a) their safety and b) their potential for success, before I will consider participating in them or allowing them to be done to me.
And I also find myself asking the questions – ‘why is this treatment or therapy still considered (or still called) ‘alternative’ and why aren’t they more ‘commonly accepted or used’?’
I just fully believe that we owe it to ourselves to be responsible in what we do or don’t accept.
And whilst I know that there are proponents of such alternative; medicines, treatments, or therapies out there. And that many of them would argue passionately about the benefits of said alternative; medicines, treatments or therapies. I still feel that both my caution and indeed those three questions – ‘how safe is it?’, ‘what is the potential for success?’, and ‘why is it still considered ‘alternative’ and not more commonly used?’ are valid.
After all, history has taught us that just because a therapy or treatment exists (and indeed just because it is widely used) doesn’t mean it actually works.
And let’s be honest here. Psychology is (it can easily be argued) still very much in it’s infancy, as is our understanding of the human mind and how it works. Whereas our understanding of medical science is much older and our understanding of the human body with all it’s – biological, neurological, physiological and indeed biochemical complexities – has greatly improved.
And as a result of this improved understanding, some of the things – some of the therapies and treatments which were once widely accepted and indeed practiced – now appear totally ludicrous to us.
Let me share one such example of this…
Yes I know that a great deal of humor can be (and was) gained from this particular example. But it was still – it is I think worth noting – a very real and accepted practice. (And is actually believed to be the origin of the still used expression “He’s just blowing smoke up your a*se”).
The above having been said, and my personal caution having been expressed. I should also perhaps mention that I do additionally personally believe that each treatment or therapy should however be judged on it’s own merit. I am convinced that it would be both wrong and foolish to simply deny a treatment or therapy (or to simply accept it for that matter) just because it comes with (or under) the ‘alternative’ label.
As I look over the list of examples in respect of ‘alternative’ treatments or therapies provided in today’s challenge question – (such things as: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy, ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS) I have to be honest and admit that I personally have not specifically tried any of them.
That having been said my family and I did all once undergo hypnosis and I seem to recall that had some success. And additionally, as someone who loves to draw, sculpt, sketch and paint and as someone who loves to sing. I can absolutely see how art or music therapy could be very beneficial.
Regular readers will know how I have mentioned that I have recently been going through a particularly difficult time mentally. And how, as a result of this, writing these blog posts has been taking me far, far longer than normal and how focusing on any writing or reading has been extremely difficult.
Because of this, and in response to a request from one of my kids, I have been getting back into my art and the above picture is something I did a few days ago. And I really did find just sitting down and sketching it so very relaxing and very therapeutic. I also realized that the creative process involved in conceptualizing and placing on paper something which had been in my heart and on my mind for some time now was extremely beneficial to my mental health.
Of course there are very few risks involved with sitting down and sketching or painting and the fear of getting a paper cut is far less than the fear of someone actually attaching electrodes to my brain.
And I am not saying that in order to make light of, or to be disrespectful to or dismissive of, Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). I am simply pointing out a realism and something which I think needs to be very seriously considered when considering undergoing alternative treatments or therapies…
Desperation, Risk factors and objectivity…
Generally speaking I can cope. Generally speaking I know how my mental illnesses affect me. Yes, it is true, that there are times when – as a result of these mental illnesses – my mental health declines to such a degree where I actually know very little and can comprehend even less. But in the better times I have a very real and very good understanding of how my mental illnesses affect me and also of the damage that they (these particularly bad times – and my resultant behaviors and attitudes) can do.
Consequently I know the absolute and total desperation that can result from these extremely bad times and how – almost – anything can appear more favorable that what I have been through and will no doubt continue to go through again.
And it is that desperation which can serious impair or cloud our judgement and which can seriously remove or neutralize – within our thinking – the risks that can be involved with or are associated to some alternative treatments.
And sometimes the chance of simply escaping the suffering we are going through is enough to blind us to the suffering that we might enter into as a result of trying to escape in that way.
And that, I fear, is a very real problem and something that we all – and especially our loved ones – need to be extremely mindful of.
A concluding balanced approach…
So personally I try to take a very balanced approach to all alternative therapies and treatments and to approach them with an open mind but asking the following questions…
1) Is it tried and tested?
2) What is the potential for success?
3) What are the risks involved?
4) Am I mentally in a place where I am able to objectively assess these things?
5) Have I done enough research?
6) Have I sought advice and counsel from those who know me and my illnesses and who I trust to have my best interests at heart?
7) Am I sure that my desire to alleviate or eradicate my current symptoms is not clouding my judgement?
8) Am I unable to access or try better – less risky – alternatives?
Unless I am able to answer yes to all of those questions, I cannot even consider and answer the ultimate question which is “Am I, and/or those who I really trust to have my best interests at heart, sure that this is the best option for me in the long run?” And unless I can answer yes to that question I personally will not go ahead with that treatment or therapy.
There is, in my opinion, no doubt evidence to prove that some alternative treatments and therapies can and do work. But there is also, in my opinion, no doubt evidence to prove that sometimes some do not work or can prove more harmful than beneficial and so objective caution is always a good thing.
And I leave you with this concluding thought. A quote from the English poet Alexandra Pope..