What Are The Principles Of Integrative Psychiatry?

Updated January 02, 2019

Reviewer Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Psychiatry isn't just a monolith. There are many forms and approaches to psychiatry, and in this post, we will be looking at integrative psychiatry. What is it? How does it work? What are its principles?

What Is Integrative Psychiatry?

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Integrative psychiatry is seen as a holistic form of treatment. In other words, the whole of a person is looked at, and not just different parts. Integrative psychiatry does have conventional methods, such as prescribing medications, but it also has personalized and complementary ways to help a person as well. Integrative psychiatry believes that there are different situations where a person may need a different form of therapy.

Some Examples Of Treatments

Integrative psychiatry may use different forms of treatment. These can include:

  • Nutritional needs. One way to treat someone's mental health is to put them on a diet and exercise regiment. For example, someone who is depressed may benefit from more exercise and a change in diet.
  • Exercises to relax the mind. For example, meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Guided imagery. The mind follows an image, and this helps them heal.
  • Bodywork. Massages and other treatments can make someone relax.
  • Eye movement exercises.

Integrative psychiatry can be quite expansive, and it can help quite a bit of people.

Who Can It Help?

Integrative psychiatry can help a few people, especially those who have had a hard time with traditional psychiatry. Someone who wants to improve their well-being can benefit, especially if they want to look at their health and see how it impacts their life. People who have anxiety, depression, PTSD, perimenopause, different phobias, and anything similar may benefit as well.

With that said, it obviously isn't for everyone. If you feel like you're suicidal, have psychosis or an extreme mental health problem, you may need more intense psychiatry. Make sure you know what your needs are before you give integrative psychiatry a try.

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The Principles Of Integrative Psychiatry

Integrative psychiatry runs on many unique principles. While they may vary depending on who you're talking to, here are some principles that are usually shared by all.

  • The goal of integrative psychiatry isn't just to treat the disease. If someone is anxious, ridding the person of anxiety isn't the end. The goal is to have great mental health. This can prevent future mental health problems and just improve on the quality of one's life. Someone who goes into an integrative psychiatrist should come out improved in all aspects of life.
  • Integrative psychiatry believes in the healing power of relationships. This obviously includes the psychiatrist and client relationship, but it also includes the client's relationship outside the field of psychiatry. For example, someone who is dealing with relationship or friendship issues may need to repair their relationships as well. In some ways, integrative psychiatry has counseling elements to it. The psychiatrist in this situation isn't a pill pusher, but someone who wants to form a relationship with their client and wants them to feel like they are being listened to.
  • As mentioned before, integrative psychiatry is a holistic approach, where the whole is looked at in addition to the body. The belief is that the body, mind, and the environment you're surrounding yourself with all operate in harmony. If you want to treat anxiety, you can't just stop at anxiety meds and breathing exercises. You need to look at the life around you. Is there a reason in your personal life that can be contributing to how you feel and how you're operating? If so, how can the psychiatrist fix it? There are quite a few ways to do this.
  • Prevention is even more important than treatment. It's believed that one should not wait for a mental disorder or another disease to happen and then try to fix it. Instead, it's believed by living healthy, both physically and mentally, it can help someone prevent problems in the future. However, they do realize that those problems can still arise. But if you have a healthy mindset, you can handle the problems much better than if you were unhealthy. To prevent, an integrative psychiatrist may use diet, meditation, relationships, and even spirituality to help a person grow.

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  • There's the belief that people can heal themselves from within. The natural state for most people is to be healthy. In other words, someone can be able to heal themselves if they have all the right treatment or tools to. They just need to identify and then remove anything problematic from their life.
  • Integrative psychiatry uses different models of treatment. They, well, integrate, and this is where the name comes from. It's believed that conventional psychiatry, which uses diagnosing, psychotherapy, and medication, can be combined with other ways of treatment, such as being mindful, massages, supplements, and other forms of alternative or untraditional medicine.
  • Another principle is that people have their responsibility for how healthy and happy they want to be. A psychiatrist can't make you happy. Instead, they can help guide you in discovering your happiness, and you can treat it in many different ways. Sometimes, this can involve taking negative habits and feelings you hold and letting them go. Other times, it can involve battling your internal struggles to achieve your happiness. While many factors can affect your mood, you are the sole decider on how you feel.
  • Individuality is important and is a large part of integrative psychiatry. Grouping people can be important when it comes to classifying and for general treatment and advice, but everyone works a little bit differently. Not every person is going to work the same. Someone may react well to medicine, and someone else may react to talk therapy. Looking at someone's preferences can determine treatment and strategies an integrative psychiatrist may use. With that said, there are times when something different may be used.
  • Someone who is an integrative psychiatrist must practice what they preach. Everyone is going to be a hypocrite in some way or the other. However, if the psychiatrist is telling you to eat healthily, and then they go out and eat fast food, they aren't principled. This doesn't mean the psychiatrist has to be perfect, but they must try to be principled and practice as many good habits as possible.
  • One belief is that every experience one has is an opportunity to learn. Someone who has a bad experience can learn from it as well. Many people will instead use bad opportunities as a reason to be depressed or feel like they can't continue with their life. Instead, they should focus on their experiences and honor them. By trying to push all of your life experiences away, you are doing yourself a bad favor in the end.

Myths About Integrative Psychiatry

There are many myths about integrative psychiatry. Here are a few myths and why they aren't true.

Myth: Integrative Psychiatry Discourages The Use Of Psychiatric Medicine

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Because integrative psychiatry uses alternative treatments, one may feel like they discourage medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotics. This is simply not the case. Integrative psychiatry realizes these medicines are valuable, but they are not the only form of treatment. Someone may try different treatments in addition to taking medicine.

Myth: Assessment Only Looks At The Health Of A Person

Someone who is going through integrative psychiatry may expect the psychiatrist to only look at the lifestyle and family history they have. However, the integrative psychiatrist will also look at a slew of other things. They may look at the mind, spirit, body, and the personal life of the person. A full assessment of one's life is an important principle of holism. One cannot be treated without it.

Myth: The Patients Only Come In For Natural Remedies

Not every patient who comes in is a natural remedy person. Instead, they want to see what all the options are and give them a try in a safe environment. If one thing doesn't work, they can try another treatment with ease. For example, the patient may try medicine and meditation together.

These are just a few reasons why integrative psychiatry is a unique practice that should be tried if you have a problem. They are not only good for mental health problems, but also for physical health and for people who have external problems such as relationships, family, and other difficulties.

Seek Help!

If you are having a problem, talk to a counselor or integrative psychiatrist today. There is no shame in admitting when you need help. Someone who deals with integrative psychiatry can try different treatments until they find the best method that works for you. You may not realize how much you like meditation or massages. Everyone reacts differently, and be treating your problems; you can then learn how to prevent them and then move onto something bigger. Speak to someone today about your problems and get the assistance you need.


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