Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Complementary and Alternative Therapies

by Sara Stringer

Complementary and alternative therapies are medical products and procedures that are used to diagnose or treat an illness, in conjunction with standard care. Standard care is defined as medical products and procedures prescribed by licensed medical practitioners such as medical doctors, dentists, nurses, and physical therapists. Complementary and alternative treatments run the gamut from the familiar, such as massage therapy, to the unusual, such as iridology.

Some complementary and alternative therapies have been proven useful when integrated into a standard medical treatment protocol. When used correctly, they can improve the patient’s quality of life, their response to the standard treatment, and even improve their chances of recovery. Below is an explanation of two well-known complementary and alternative therapies, and how they can benefit you.


Hypnosis, also called hypnotherapy, involves putting a patient into a trance state to help him focus on a specific issue and be more receptive to suggestions. Contrary to what you see in popular media, hypnosis is not about mind control, or overriding the patient’s free will, but of enhancing the patient’s state of awareness.

What it’s Used For

The Hypnosis Beverly Hills clinic observes that hypnotherapy can be used for a variety of conditions and issues including:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Pain management
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Self-esteem
  • Sexual dysfunction

A Typical Session

Each hypnotherapy session is individual, but there are some commonalities between each session. Generally, a trained hypnotherapist will talk to the patient to determine what issues she wishes to address. The therapist then helps the patient into the trance state with the help of relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Once the patient is in the trance state, she is still conscious and aware, but her body is more relaxed and her mind is more open to suggestions and guidance from the therapist.

During the session the therapist will suggest exercises to help the patient address whatever issue or condition she needs help with. For example, if the patient wants to quit smoking, the therapist might suggest that every cigarette the patient smokes tastes like sour milk, or that it makes her nauseous.

The therapist can also give the patient tools to put herself into a hypnotic state, such as using a song or a sound to trigger a trance state during an anxiety attack.


Acupuncture is a blanket term for the manipulation of energy points all over the body. The form of acupuncture we are the most familiar with in the United States involves the use of tiny needles to manipulate and stimulate the energy points. The belief is that the needles disrupt negative energy at those points on the body.

What it’s Used For

The National Center for complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) indicates that acupuncture is primarily used to treat pain from a variety of conditions including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Migraine and other headaches
  • Low and neck pain
  • Fibromyalgia

A Typical Session

As with hypnotherapy, each session is specific to the individual, but there are some similarities among all sessions. Generally, a trained acupuncturist will have the patient change into a loose-fitting gown and conduct an interview and physical examination to determine where the needles need to be inserted. The patient would then lie on a padded table while the acupuncturist gently inserts sterile, disposable needles into the designated energy spot on his body. The patient might feel a slight sting, but it should be very mild because the needles are very thin.

Once the needles have been inserted, the acupuncturist will leave the room and have the patient lie quietly for up to 20 minutes. The acupuncturist may cover the untreated parts of the patient’s body with a blanket, and play soothing music during the relaxation time.

At the end of the session the acupuncturist will gently remove and dispose of the needles and then leave the room so the patient can relax for a bit and change clothes.

Things to Consider

You should always consult your physician before choosing a complementary or alternative therapy, especially if you are seeking treatment for a specific condition. Although these therapies are designed to work along with conventional medical treatments, some might involve the use of techniques that could conflict with your current treatment.

You should also not replace your standard medicine with complementary or alternative therapies without first consulting your doctor.

About the Author

Sara Stringer is freelance writer who enjoys writing about natural health alternatives. In her spare time, she enjoys maintaining an active lifestyle through swimming and practicing yoga.

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