Integrating complementary therapies into community mental health practice: an exploration

J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Jun;11(3):569-74. doi: 10.1089/acm.2005.11.569.


Objectives: To (1) describe the integration of massage and energy-based therapies with psychotherapy in a community mental health center, (2) to present qualitative feedback on the service, and (3) to present pilot data from a sample of long-term clients with persistent mental health concerns.

Design: A noncontrolled pilot study was conducted using interview data before and self-report instruments after completing a brief program of complementary therapy accompanying ongoing psychotherapy.

Settings/location: The program took place at a comprehensive community mental health center in southern Maine and in the private offices of massage therapists and energy healing practitioners who contracted with the program.

Subjects: Subjects were 20 women and 5 men, with mean age of 42 years and a mean history of 7.4 years of mental health treatment. All had histories that included trauma, 10 of which involved sexual abuse. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV Axis I diagnoses were PTSD (10), major depression (nine), anxiety disorder (three), and dual diagnosis (three).

Interventions: Clients receiving ongoing psychotherapy were assigned to one modality of complementary therapy based on clinical judgment, availability of practitioners, and client interest. Modalities used were massage, acupuncture, Reiki, and Healing Touch. The mean number of sessions was five.

Outcome measures: Clients completed an investigator-generated instrument with Likert-scaled ratings of satisfaction and perceived changes in four dimensions of trauma recovery: perceived interpersonal safety, interpersonal boundary setting, bodily sensation, and bodily shame.

Results: Clients reported high levels of satisfaction with the service and significant levels of perceived (self-rated) change on each outcome measure. Qualitative results included enhanced psychotherapeutic outcomes reported by mental health clinicians.

Conclusions: The integration of complementary therapies into community mental health practice may hold promise of enhancing mental health outcomes and improving quality of life for long-term users of mental health services.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Community Mental Health Centers / organization & administration*
  • Community Mental Health Centers / standards
  • Complementary Therapies / organization & administration*
  • Complementary Therapies / trends
  • Depression / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Dual (Psychiatry)
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maine
  • Male
  • Massage
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sex Offenses
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy
  • Therapeutic Touch
  • Treatment Outcome