How Can I Choose the Best Mind-Body Therapy for Me?
Choosing a mind-body therapy isn't easy, and doing some "homework" before making your choice can help you identify the practice that is best for you. You can learn about different therapies and practices by selecting them from the menu on the right. Then ask yourself:
- What do you want from the therapy? Do you want to address your stress so you can decrease your risk of disease? Do you need to find a way to cope with physical symptoms? Are you looking to treat a particular disease? Or are you looking to increase your general wellbeing? If you have a specific health goal, ask your provider which therapies he or she would recommend and do some research on your own-there is lots of information out there.
- What's appealing? Do you like to dance, sing, paint, exercise? Choosing a therapy you'll enjoy increases your chances of sustaining and reaping the benefits of a mind-body practice.
- What's logistically realistic at this point? How much free time do you really have to devote to this practice? Are there financial constraints? Is there an instructor or therapist in your community to help you get started? Your commitment to a particular practice may evolve over time, but it's important to base your initial choice on what's realistic for you now.
- What physical, intellectual, and/or spiritual characteristics must you consider? Can you settle down in a sitting position or do you prefer to move? Do you find that music or art brings you a peace you don't find elsewhere? Are you comfortable with a spiritual approach? Think about your characteristics and choose a mind-body therapy that incorporates them. Again, that is not to say that these characteristics don't change over time. But honor your present self as you begin your mind-body journey.
- What is safe and effective? Generally, mind-body therapies are very safe. Remember that mind-body therapies have a rich and ever-expanding body of research supporting their efficacy. In the end, however, you are responsible for ensuring your own safe and effective mind-body routine, so tailor it to your needs.
For example, if you're choosing a therapy with an intense physical component, seek approval from your healthcare provider and listen to your body to avoid overdoing it. If you are suffering from depression or a personality disorder, talk with your primary therapist before doing meditation, clinical hypnosis, or guided imagery (and some type of expressive therapies that use guided imagery). If you're using medication, monitor yourself to determine if your mind-body practice reduces your need.
What support or instruction will I need?
Mind-body therapies and practices differ in the amount of professional support necessary. Some, like breathing, just need basic initial instruction.
Others, such as biofeedback, guided imagery, and meditation, need more extensive initial training and then can be practiced on your own.
Still others, such as music therapy or clinical hypnosis, might need ongoing contact with a practitioner. In many cases a group or community of individuals engaged in a practice similar to yours can be invaluable for support and advice.
How can I find support?
Finding support and instruction can hugely impact your chance of success. When seeking professional guidance, keep these tips in mind:
- Talk with your primary healthcare provider(s) or someone you believe to be knowledgeable about your chosen mind-body therapy, and ask if they can recommend a trained professional to help you as you begin your program.
- Take these recommendations and gather information via phone. Ask basic questions about credentials and practice. Where did they receive their training? What licenses or certifications do they have? How much will the treatment, classes, or support cost?
- Check with your insurer to see if they will cover the cost of this particular mind-body therapy (and check your budget if not).
- After selecting a mind-body practitioner, teacher, or class, make a list of questions to ask at your first visit. Be prepared to answer questions about your health history, including injuries, surgeries, major illnesses, and any drugs you take.
- After a visit or two, decide if your practitioner, class, or instructor is right for you. Did you feel comfortable, and could you freely communicate? Does the mind-body therapy plan seem reasonable and acceptable to you?
How can I create a successful mind-body practice?
Beginning any new health regime, including a mind-body therapy program, requires you to change your habits, your schedule, and your mind. Here are five steps to starting on and sticking with a mind-body practice:
- Identify what you want to change.
- Set a clear and realistic goal.
- Recognize challenges you may face, so you can plan for them.
- Create specific, measurable action steps.
- Enlist support.
- Check your progress on your action steps as you move to your goal and make adjustments as necessary.