Beyond Traditional Therapy: Exploring Alternative Therapies for in Supported Living

For individuals living in supported living settings, therapy can play a crucial role in improving their overall well-being and quality of life. While traditional therapies such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy are commonly used to support individuals, alternative therapies are also gaining recognition as effective interventions. This article will explore the concept of alternative therapies, examples of alternative therapies, their benefits and limitations, and considerations when choosing them.

What are alternative therapies?

Alternative therapies are interventions that are used in addition to or instead of traditional therapies. They are often based on holistic approaches and aim to treat the whole person, including physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Unlike traditional therapies, the alternatives are often considered complementary rather than primary treatments.

Examples of alternative therapies

Art therapy

This form of therapy uses creative expression to promote emotional and mental well-being. Art therapy can involve various mediums such as drawing, painting, and sculpting and can help individuals express their thoughts and feelings in a safe and non-judgmental environment.

Music therapy

Music can be used to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Music therapists use techniques such as singing, listening, and playing instruments to help individuals achieve their goals.

Dance/movement therapy

Through the use of dance, movement can be used to promote emotional, cognitive, physical, and social integration. Dance/movement therapists work with individuals to explore movement and expression through dance and other forms of movement.

Animal-assisted therapy

This therapy involves interaction with animals to promote physical and emotional well-being. Animals such as dogs, cats, and horses are used to help individuals develop social skills, improve mood, and reduce stress and anxiety. Just think to how you feed when you see  basket full of puppies, or another cat picture on the internet.

Horticultural therapy

You can use gardening and plant-based activities to promote physical, emotional, and social well-being. Individuals can engage in activities such as planting, harvesting, and caring for gardens to improve their overall health.

Equine therapy

This therapy involves interaction with horses to promote physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being. Activities such as horseback riding and grooming can help individuals develop confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills.

Benefits of alternative therapies

  1. Improved mental and emotional well-being:

Alternative therapies can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to express themselves and explore their emotions. This can lead to improved self-awareness, self-esteem, and overall emotional well-being.

  1. Increased socialisation and communication skills:

Just attending often involves interaction with others, which can help individuals develop social skills and improve their ability to communicate effectively.

  1. Enhanced physical health and functioning:

They can provide opportunities for physical activity and exercise, which can improve cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and overall physical functioning.

  1. Increased self-expression and creativity:

Alternative therapies such as art therapy and music therapy can help individuals express themselves creatively and develop new skills.

Considerations when choosing alternative therapies.

When choosing alternative therapies, several factors should be considered, including:

  1. Individual needs and preferences:

The therapy should be tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences to ensure that they are comfortable and engaged in the therapy.

  1. Accessibility and affordability:

The therapy should be accessible and affordable to ensure that it is sustainable for the individual and their caregivers.

  1. Certification and training of therapists:

The therapist should be appropriately certified and trained in the specific therapy to ensure safe and effective treatment.

  1. Integration with other therapies:

The therapy should be integrated with other therapies and interventions to ensure that it complements and enhances the overall treatment plan.

Challenges and limitations of alternative therapies

While alternative therapies can offer many benefits, there are also challenges and limitations to consider, including:

  1. Lack of research and evidence-based practices:

One of the biggest challenges with alternative therapies is the lack of research and evidence-based practices to support their effectiveness. Unlike traditional therapies that have been extensively studied and tested, alternative therapies are relatively new and may not have a large body of scientific evidence to support their use. This can make it difficult to determine the effectiveness of these therapies and to ensure that they are safe for individuals with disabilities.

  1. The Cost to access:

Another significant hurdle when considering alternative therapies in the UK is the matter of affordability and accessibility within the framework of the NHS. Unlike mainstream medical treatments, alternative therapies aren’t typically covered by the NHS, meaning individuals often have to source and finance them independently. This can be particularly burdensome for those whose primary source of income is from benefits such as ESA, Universal Credit, or PIP, as these therapies are an additional expense that can be challenging to accommodate.

  1. Limited availability in some areas:

Finally, another limitation of alternative therapies is their limited availability in some areas. Depending on where an individual lives, it may be difficult to find a therapist who is trained and certified in a specific alternative therapy. This can make it difficult for individuals with disabilities in those areas to access these therapies and benefit from their potential benefits.

Alternative therapies can offer a range of benefits for individuals in supported living, including improved mental and emotional well-being, increased socialisation and communication skills, enhanced physical health and functioning, and increased self-expression and creativity. When considering alternative therapies, it is important to take into account individual needs and preferences, accessibility and affordability, certification and training of therapists, and integration with other therapies. While there are challenges and limitations associated, their potential benefits make them worth exploring as part of a comprehensive therapy plan. By working with healthcare professionals and exploring different therapy options, individuals with disabilities in supported living can achieve greater independence, fulfilment, and quality of life.

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