Complementary and holistic approaches for depression

Various approaches that people use to treat their depression are generally outside the mainstream health system. Nevertheless, complementary and holistic health approaches are now becoming more common in general practices, private hospitals and community health centres.

Selecting a complementary or holistic healer can be difficult. One woman urged caution as she had met many 'weird' practitioners and thought that virtually anyone could call themselves a holistic therapist. One man did an intensive 10-day course called 'Biodanca' (dance therapy), but felt a sense of loss when the teacher then left the country. It was recommended by some people we talked to that people with depression (and their carers) adopt a 'healthy scepticism' when considering complementary or holistic practitioners.

Meditation and yoga
Meditation can be used as a way of becoming more 'mindful', calming the mind and body, and reducing anxiety. Gaining mindfulness can also help to defeat negative thoughts. But it can be very difficult to meditate when you are very depressed. In fact, attending relaxation classes and failing to relax could contribute to a sense of failure for some. However, certain simple meditative techniques, for instance taking slow deep breaths, helped even very depressed people.

Especially when people start to recover, they sometimes discover inventive ways to meditate that work for them. For instance, one man found an effective way to deal with anger constructively. Some people found a way to relax and meditate while swimming. A number of people said that meditative practices such as yoga were useful (see Mind's website for more information).

Energy healing
Energy healing featured in several people's stories about recovery. It came in many different forms, such as spiritual healing, Reiki, or Johrei. People reported a greater sense of wellbeing from such healing. One man had healing sessions at a community centre, as well as Johrei from a friend, and said that this kind of healing provided some 'spiritual nourishment' and welcome relief, but not a cure. One woman, who was also taking a newer anti-depressant, thought a spiritual healing called 'Family Tree Healing' had helped her.

Pills and potions
A number of people had used St John's Wort (Hypericum). This appeared to work for some with mild to moderate depression. There were cautions that people should consult their doctors before using St John's Wort because it can interact with other drugs (for more information see Mind's website). A few people had also tried other remedies including fish (Omega-3) oil, Zinc, and flower essences such as 'Gorse' and 'Mustard'. A number of people believed that diet was important in depression.

Other approaches
People said that hypnotherapy and related approaches (such as rebirthing) were helpful to a degree. One woman felt she had become less fearful and developed a more positive perspective partly through hypnotherapy, yet later stopped going when the therapist wanted to delve into traumatic childhood events. A man felt that multi-rebirths had helped him to be less anxious over time, while a woman found Craniosacral therapy relaxing.

Others discussed Chinese medicine, including acupuncture.

Last reviewed September 2017.
Last updated October 2012.


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