Complementary Medicine & Integrative Health Approaches to Trauma Therapy & Recovery

Research Paper Title

Introduction to the special issue: Complementary medicine and integrative health approaches to trauma therapy and recovery.


The popularity of complementary and integrative health (also complementary integrated health; CIH) approaches has significantly increased in recent years.

According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), part of the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 9 children used CIH approaches to healing.

Some reports estimate that the use of CIH approaches will continue to increase (Clarke et al., 2015) as these therapies are cost effective and also due to the difficulties in finding trained mental health professionals (Simon et al., 2020).

For the purpose of this special issue, the researchers use the NCCIH’s definition of CIH as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine” (Barnes et al., 2004, p. v). However, the integration of these therapies into the health system has not followed the same pattern despite the fact that patients report the need to discuss CIH therapies with their doctors or are actually using them (de Jonge et al., 2018; Jou & Johnson, 2016; Stapleton et al., 2015). This inability to keep up with the demand or patients’ preference is possibly due to providers’ lack of understanding and/or knowledge of these therapies, as well as scientific skepticism (Ali & Katz, 2015; Fletcher et al., 2017).

Using data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, Jou & Johnson (2016) identified patterns of CIH use in the United States and reasons for patients’ nondisclosure of the use of these therapies. Patients’ fear of disclosure due to perceived scepticism or disapproval from their provider was frequently attributed as a cause of patients’ nondisclosures to providers about the use of these therapies (Eisenberg et al., 2001; Jou & Johnson, 2016; Thomson et al., 2012).

The arrival of patient-centred care models is beginning to shift the ways we understand the patient’s role in treatment engagement. Patient-centred approaches often emphasize the use of preventative and holistic wellness models that go beyond the use of evidence-based treatments. This approach also seeks to be culturally responsive, which is a key factor in addressing health disparities in the United States (American Psychological Association [APA], 2019).

The Institute of Medicine, in its report on CIH therapies, highlighted the importance of engaging patients in their own care, including having a decision about therapeutic options (Bondurant et al., 2005). Likewise, the Race and Ethnicity Guidelines in Psychology (APA, 2019) recommend psychologists engage the patient’s cultural beliefs, or what Kleinman called the “explanatory belief model” (Kleinman, 1978)- for example, by “aim[ing] to understand and encourage indigenous/ ethnocultural sources of healing within professional practice” (APA, 2019, p. 24).


Mattar, S. & Frewenm P.A. (2020) Introduction to the special issue: Complementary medicine and integrative health approaches to trauma therapy and recovery. Psychological Trauma. 12(8):821-824. doi: 10.1037/tra0000994.

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