There is a shortage of therapists. The global pandemic came on hard and strong (that’s what she said), and left us in the dust.
We want to find help, and traditional talk therapy is often the first modality that comes to mind. But it’s difficult to find a therapist who is accepting new patients. They are overwhelmed and stretched to the max. One therapist friend of mine was working seven days a week for 10 hours a day for much of the last year and a half before burning out.
It is not unusual to be put on a waiting list while looking for a traditional therapist. I get it, this is not a comfortable or desirable place to be. However, there are additional types of mental health professionals who might be able to provide some relief while you are waiting.
But First, Look for Trauma-Informed Professionals
When looking for a professional in one of these alternatives to traditional talk therapy, it is essential to look for words and information like, “trauma-informed.” This means that these professionals have trained to serve clients who have experienced different types of trauma.
One of the main points of trauma-informed care is to avoid re-traumatizing clients. There are six key principles to trauma-informed care, as created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These include providing physical and psychological safety, building trust through transparency in operations and decisions, being open to peer support, approaching care in collaboration with everyone involved, giving voice and choice and empowering clients, and being sensitive to gender, cultural, and historical issues
Finding professionals who are trauma-informed will help provide the level of care that you are looking for and complement future traditional talk therapy. Here are five alternatives to therapy while you are waiting for an appointment – I’ve tried all of them.
Trauma Recovery Coach
Full disclosure, I am a trauma recovery coach. This mental health field is fairly new and cutting edge, which means that not a lot of people know about it. I get asked a lot about the differences between traditional therapists and trauma recovery coaches and, to be honest, there are only a few: we don’t diagnose mental illnesses, we don’t prescribe medication, and we don’t create treatment plans telling clients what they “should” do. We work together with clients to help them create the happiness and life they have always deserved. This is an excellent alternative to talk therapy while you wait.
Somatic therapy – also known as Bodywork – is a wonderful way to approach working through life’s issues and challenges. Professionals in this mental health field help clients connect and process trauma physiologically, or “having to do with the body,” which is what somatic means. In other words, they work with the mind-body connection that already exists within us. When something happens, our bodies know first, they feel it first. Our minds assign meaning to the physical sensations that we experience.
Trauma is stored in the body and disrupts our nervous system. We can become stuck in states of arousal, shut down, or tension. Somatic therapists work with clients physiologically to identify where trauma is stored and help release it, bringing physical and emotional relief.
While traditionally viewed as more of a relaxation treat, massage can be used as a type of somatic therapy. This is where “trauma-informed” research comes in handy (pun intended), as massage used to process and release trauma is quite different from a typical relaxing massage. A massage therapist is able to work with a combination of systems within our bodies, including the muscular system, skeletal system, lymphatic system, joints, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and lungs, diaphragm, and voice. All of these areas can hold tension and trauma, and the right massage therapist can help clients process through these.
Acupuncture is based on unblocking the flow of life’s energy, called “qi”, in the body. There are specific acupuncture points throughout the body that can be accessed with those hair-thin needles. Using the needles at specific points helps balance the body’s energy, restore energy flow, promote relaxation, and stimulate healing. This modality has been practiced for thousands of years.
Acupuncture is useful for treating mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as the physical conditions associated with trauma. My acupuncturist was trauma-informed and a mental health professional, and he practiced using a whole-body, integrated perspective. His input in my life has been invaluable.
Trauma-informed yoga is another modality that works by integrating the mind and body. Carefully working with the body in poses and stretches, trauma-informed yoga instructors can help clients to regulate a disrupted nervous system. This practice encourages clients to focus on how they feel within their bodies through movement, and to focus on the present moment, which is very difficult for trauma survivors. Practicing yoga with an instructor can also help clients to self-regulate their feelings and emotions and to tolerate a range of physical sensations and feelings. These skills are invaluable in the healing trauma healing process.
There’s not “only one” or one “right” way to “do therapy.” It takes a village to create and maintain good mental and physical health. Consider a combination approach by trying some of these other options for mental health treatment while waiting for a therapy appointment.