8 Alternatives To Therapy
8 Alternatives To Therapy

8 Alternatives To Therapy


Although many people find therapy helpful, it’s not for everyone. Whether you’re on a waiting list or just want to explore your options, here are some alternative ways to improve your mental health…

If You’ve Tried Talking Therapy… Try CBT

Modern-day psychotherapy has been developing since the 1940s and is among the most widely known forms of mental health treatment, but that doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to manage your mental health. Cognitive behavioural therapy – aka CBT – is a form of therapy that focuses on recognising negative thought patterns. Rather than delving into your past, CBT tackles issues you're currently dealing with. “CBT is often preferred by male clients due to the practical, self-help, technique-focused approach and can be delivered within six to 12 sessions,” says Jade Thomas, psychotherapist and founder of Luxe Psychology Practice. “Moreover, based on many studies, CBT is deemed to be one of the most effective forms of therapy due to its practical, short-term approach.” Jade recommends apps like Clarity, Mindshift and CBT-I Coach, which offer a self-help CBT approach. “If you’d rather do it in person, book a session with an integrative therapist – a therapist trained in multiple approaches who can tailor therapy based on your goals and needs.” Cai Graham, mental health mentor, is also a fan of using an app. “Thrive is a great platform that uses CBT to manage stress and anxiety, while MoodGYM teaches CBT skills to manage and prevent depression.”

If You Feel Overwhelmed… Prioritise Self-Care

Taking time for yourself daily plays a central role in your mental health, says Cai. “Incorporating exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep and simple stress management techniques significantly contribute to better mental health, whether done alone or alongside a formal form of therapy.” Prioritising self-care is the optimal choice for better wellbeing, Cai says. “Start by moving your body daily – even simple activities like walking and jogging can have significant benefits – and establish a consistent sleep schedule. Many men don’t realise how key quality sleep is for mental health. Also cut back on processed food and eat more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which can positively impact brain function.”

If You Want To Change Your Mindset… Try Emotional Transformation

What is considered therapy has evolved greatly, says Dr Lisa Turner, a trauma and emotional resilience expert who specialises in a cutting-edge treatment called conscious emotional transformation (CET). “CET is a unique psychological approach that clears pain and limiting beliefs from your past, accomplishing in a matter of hours what other therapies may take years to achieve, if at all. Plus, CET is popular with men as it doesn’t require the client to relive, remember or retell any painful past experiences.” Simply talking about your emotions, crying or shouting has been shown to have limited effectiveness, and can even have an adverse effect, she continues. “This is because the neural pathways that are activated when a client relives, remembers or expresses the emotion are strengthened by repeated use, making the problem worse. CET repairs neural pathways that increase emotional resilience and removes resistance to emotions, so pain can be released rather than just ‘felt’ as many techniques do.”

If You Want To Try Something Different… Consider Hypnotherapy

Ignore the dated reputation. Hypnosis is recognised by the NHS as a complementary therapy and can help everyone from those suffering with depression to those with a phobia of needles. “It helps patients reach a heightened state of awareness and peace of mind – aka mindfulness,” says hypnotherapist Malminder Gil. “As human beings, we cannot detach ourselves from thoughts, worries and bodily sensations, but we can learn how to slow down the negative spiralling thoughts that might cause anxiety and unhappiness – this is what hypnotherapy can help you with. During hypnosis, the hypnotherapist uses guided relaxation techniques to elicit feelings of extreme relaxation, focus and concentration. In doing this, they can help you rewire and reprogramme your brain to change unhealthy habits.” There are several studies that confirm the power of hypnosis. One found that psychoanalysis was 38% effective after 600 sessions, CBT was 72% effective after 28 sessions, and hypnotherapy was 93% effective after just six sessions. Just do your research –hypnotherapy is an unregulated industry. Qualifications are a good starting point, but also look for valid testimonials. 

If You Can’t Commit To Hour-Long Sessions… Try An App

Whether you’re short on time or want to work on your mental health in your own time, a host of new apps makes this possible. Plus, most have a free trial period, meaning you can dip your toe in before fully committing. “Apps like Headspace and Calm are a great place to start for guided meditation and relaxation exercises,” says Cai, “while BuddyApp connects individuals who are looking for help with trained peer supporters who have lived experience of mental health challenges. I also rate Fika, an emotional fitness app designed to enhance mental wellbeing through interactive exercises and practical tools.” Be sure to do your research and commit to a programme once you’ve found one you like, adds Lisa. “Set yourself goals and monitor your progress. Decide what ‘this is working’ looks like for you and be sure you’re engaging fully when using an app, not multitasking. Prepare for the sessions and use them – even if they are virtual, put the time in your diary as if it were a ‘real’ appointment,” she advises. 

If You Can’t Afford Therapy… Chat To Your Employer

The simplest way to access free therapy is to chat to your GP, who will most likely refer you to your local IAPT (Improving Access To Psychological Therapies) programme. 75% of people referred to IAPT services start treatment within six weeks of a referral. As Jo Love, trainee psychotherapist and mental health advocate, tells us, “Many of these services have their own websites, so you can refer yourself directly rather than having to go through your GP. They offer what is known as a stepped service, based on the level of support you need. It may be that you’re offered some guided self-help with accountability from a wellness practitioner, as opposed to traditional face-to-face therapy.” It’s also worth chatting to your employer, who may be able to support with free counselling. “This is known as an employee assistance programme. Ask your HR department if this is something they offer. The programme can provide short-term mental health care, referrals and financial advice.” It’s also worth checking with your health insurance, as mental health can be covered by some policies. 

If You Feel Lonely… Get In Touch With Friends

Don’t underestimate the power of connection, says Nick James, psychotherapist and coach at The Soke. “Building social connections is especially important for men, as it’s almost like a muscle that atrophies unless it’s actively worked on, ultimately taking its toll on our mental health. Women will readily stay connected with friends from university, work and antenatal classes, and while men also have connections from their earlier years, most of us barely hang onto them, maybe seeing them once or twice a year. As we age, men seem to be mystified by the art of making friends, but our friendships are something we need to nurture. Getting too comfortable with your own company is detrimental to your mental health.” Don’t be afraid to value emotional connection with male friends, adds Jade. “Check in regularly with friends on the phone or over coffee, and make a habit of asking them how they’re doing. Talking to a trusted friend or family member can be just as effective as formal therapy. Sharing thoughts and emotions with someone you trust can provide perspective.”

If You Don’t Know Where To Start… Try An Online Session

“Online therapy is a great way of utilising therapy but working it around your schedule,” says Jade. “However, it can be a minefield when it comes to finding a therapist. Start by making sure your therapist is licensed (i.e. registered or accredited with a professional body such as BACP, BABCP, UKCP or HCPC) and speak to at least three therapists for a consultation before deciding who you have the best rapport with – this is super important when it comes to the effectiveness of therapy.” Cai also recommends being open and transparent with your therapist about your concerns, preferences and goals. “Set clear objectives with them, actively engage during sessions, offer feedback and maintain consistent involvement to ensure therapy is focused and effective.” Apprehensive about starting? “I’m yet to meet a client who has regrets around starting therapy,” adds Jade. “Try to think about mental health in the same way as your physical health – both deserve equal attention.”

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