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More Than One River to the Ocean: Emerging Modalities of Care in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment

by Brandi Ganz, Recovery Unplugged

For all the love and support my brother and I were surrounded by as children, we were total social dumpster fires. I – an oddball with a penchant for collecting hermit crabs and giving them tragic backstories that read like a Poe fable – and my brother – who would cry at the sight of food that had been pre-cut as he deemed it to be “broken” – shockingly did not have many friends growing up. People found me dramatic and morose and my brother angry and antisocial. While I cried in my mother’s arms about the woes of the world, my brother simply didn’t talk (No, really. He decided it was all too much and just didn’t verbally communicate with anyone from ages 3 to 6).

With medication intervention and therapy, my brother made a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time. Using the same treatment though, I became convinced that the therapist was actually a clown that lived in my closet and sang sea shanties. I required a different approach.

In the ever-changing landscape of behavioral psychology, modalities to treat addiction and mental health disorders are continually evolving. New methods of therapeutic intervention offer hope and a sense of possibility for individuals thus far unable to connect with traditional forms of treatment. Though cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication management remain foundational, innovative approaches are gaining recognition for their effectiveness in addressing a wide range of psychological and behavioral challenges. Let’s look at some of the top treatment modalities currently gaining ground in behavioral healthcare:

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It has emerged as a promising treatment option for various mental health conditions, particularly depression. TMS works by targeting specific areas of the brain associated with mood regulation, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. By delivering magnetic pulses to these regions, TMS can modulate neural activity and alleviate symptoms of depression.

TMS offers several advantages over traditional treatments, including minimal side effects and a relatively quick onset of therapeutic effects. Unlike antidepressant medications, which may take weeks to exert their full benefits, many individuals experience improvement after just a few sessions of TMS. Moreover, TMS is well-tolerated by most patients and does not entail the systemic side effects associated with pharmacotherapy.

Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a therapeutic technique that encourages individuals to process physiological symptoms of distress through real-time feedback and learn how to control future onsets. During a biofeedback session, sensors attached to the skin may monitor muscle activity, heart rate, brain waves, breathing, blood pressure, sweat glands, and body temperature. This information is then displayed on a screen, allowing individuals to observe and learn to regulate their bodily responses.

Biofeedback can be used to target a wide range of conditions, including anxiety, chronic pain, and hypertension. In substance use treatment, biofeedback has been shown to help remedy some of the physiological symptoms of withdrawal by employing methods like mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery. By providing individuals with insight into their physiological functioning, biofeedback empowers them to develop self-regulation skills and modulate their responses to stressors. For example, individuals with anxiety disorders can learn relaxation techniques to lower their heart rate and reduce muscle tension as it occurs, thereby mitigating symptoms of anxiety.

Brainspotting: Brainspotting is a relatively new therapeutic approach that channels the brain's natural ability to heal from trauma. Developed by Dr. David Grand, brainspotting involves identifying and processing "brainspots," which are eye positions correlated with unresolved emotional experiences or trauma. By directing attention to these brainspots while engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or auditory cues, individuals can access and process underlying trauma at a deep neurological level.

Brainspotting is particularly effective for addressing trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as other mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and addiction. Unlike traditional talk therapies, which primarily engage the neocortex, brainspotting accesses the subcortical brain regions involved in emotional processing and memory storage, facilitating measurable improvement and healing.

These shiny methods of emotional processing were not available to a little girl living on an island in the early 2000’s. Luckily, my mom is a pretty smart lady who may have known a bit about a little thing called Somatic Therapy. Now, Somatic Therapy is an umbrella term for a few different therapeutic approaches, and you can read about them here; but all you need to know about it in this article is that it helps people release damaging, pent-up emotions using various mind-body techniques. Focusing on the mind-body connection taught me how to slow my thoughts down in a way that allowed me to consider them, sort them, feel the emotions they brought, and then let the negativity of those emotions leave my body before they damaged me.

Embracing new and emerging modalities in the mental health and addiction space creates a community more inclusive of people who require an alternative path to wellness and, in turn, becomes a place people feel safe to reach out to when they need help.

The goal of the Spiritual Care Network (SCN) is to educate, enlighten, and empower both faith leaders and mental health professionals to play a part in mental wellness and addiction recovery in their communities. SCN aims to build trusted relationships with service providers and encourages the integration of spirituality into all levels of treatment where appropriate. We are a collaborative, inclusive community welcoming of all belief systems, treatment modalities, and therapeutic programs that honor the basic tenets of care: safety, respect, and compassion for our fellow man.

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