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.

The Use of Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Mental Disorders

Research Paper Title

Mental disorders and the use of alternative medicine: results from a national survey.


The study examined the relationship between mental disorders and the use of complementary and alternative medicine.


Data from a national household telephone survey conducted in 1997-1998 (N=9,585) were used to examine the relationships between use of complementary and alternative medicine during the past 12 months and several demographic variables and indicators of mental disorders. Structured diagnostic screening interviews were used to establish diagnoses of probable mental disorders.


Use of complementary and alternative medicine during the past 12 months was reported by 16.5% of the respondents. Of those respondents, 21.3% met diagnostic criteria for one or more mental disorders, compared to 12.8% of respondents who did not report use of alternative medicine. Individuals with panic disorder and major depression were significantly more likely to use alternative medicine than those without those disorders. Respondents with mental disorders who reported use of alternative medicine were as likely to use conventional mental health services as respondents with mental disorders who did not use alternative medicine.


The researchers found relatively high rates of use of complementary and alternative medicine among respondents who met criteria for common mental disorders. Practitioners of alternative medicine should look for these disorders in their patients, and conventional medical providers should ask their depressed and anxious patients about the use of alternative medicine. More research is needed to determine if individuals with mental disorders use alternative medicine because conventional medical care does not meet their health care needs.


Unutzer, J., Klap, R., Sturm, R., Young, A.S., Marmon, T., Shatkin, J. & Wells, K.B. (2020) Mental disorders and the use of alternative medicine: results from a national survey. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 157(11), pp.1851-1857. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.157.11.1851.

Book: Mental: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know about Mental Health

Book Title:

Mental: Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know about Mental Health.

Author(s): Dr Steve Ellen and Catherine Deveny.

Year: 2018.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Anima.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, and Kindle.


How do we define mental illness? What does a diagnosis mean? What should you ask your doctor before you begin treatment? Are there alternatives to medication? What does the research show actually works?

Practitioner and professor of psychiatry Dr Steve Ellen and popular comedian Catherine Deveny combine forces to demystify the world of mental health. Sharing their personal experiences of mental illness and an insider perspective on psychiatry, they unpack the current knowledge about conditions and treatments coveing everything from depression and anxiety to schizophrenia, personality disorders and substance abuse.

Whether you have a mental illness or support someone who does, Mental offers clear practical help, empowering you with an arsenal of tips and techniques to help build your resilience.

Book: How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care

Book Title:

How to Use Herbs, Nutrients, and Yoga in Mental Health Care.

Author(s): Richard P. Brown, Patricia L. Gerberg, and Phillip R. Muskin.

Year: 2012.

Edition: Reprint Edition.

Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback and Kindle.


Many physicians and therapists agree that herbs and mind-body practices enhance health, but many more are reluctant to integrate them into their clinical work because of a lack of training or, given how long it takes to master the use of hundreds of different herbs, a lack of time.

But the trend is clear: clients and consumers alike want control over their health care choices, making the time ripe for a practical resource that guides both the clinician and the consumer on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). This book answers that call.

Three noted experts in integrative medicine, Drs. Brown, Gerbarg, and Muskin, demystify the complexities of alternative mental health care, giving readers a comprehensive yet accessible guidebook to the best treatment options out there.

From mood, memory, and anxiety disorders to ADD, sexual enhancement issues, psychotic disorders, and substance abuse, every chapter covers a major diagnostic category.

The authors then present a range of complementary and alternative treatments-including the use of herbs, nutrients, vitamins, nootropics, hormones, and mind-body practices that they have found to be beneficial for various conditions within each category.

For example, B complex vitamins and folate have been shown to help with depression; omega-3 fatty acids can offer relief for bipolar sufferers; coherent and resonant breathing techniques-used by Buddhist monks-induce healthy alpha rhythms in the brain to relieve anxiety; the elderly can boost their memory by taking the ancient medicinal herb Rhodiola rosea; and those with chronic fatigue syndrome can find comfort in acupuncture and yoga.

Focusing on evidence-based approaches, the research, the authors’ clinical experience, and the potential risks and benefits of each treatment are carefully examined.

Brown, Gerbarg, and Muskin have distilled an otherwise daunting field of treatment down to its basics: their overriding approach is to present the CAM methods that are most practical in a clinical setting, easy to administer, and low in side effects.

With helpful summary tables at the end of each chapter, clinical pearls, and case vignettes interspersed throughout, this is a must-have resource for all clinicians and consumers who want the best that alternative medicine has to offer.