“Use of Complementary and Integrative Therapies in Health Care” by: Tim Culbert, MD and Joel Oberstar, MD

Mar 30, 2015

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the NIH (National Institute of Health) recently released new data based on a 2012 National Health Survey about what “Integrative” medical therapies Americans are using. Findings indicate that 33.2% of American adults and 11.6% of US children report using complementary health approaches. The most commonly reported complementary approaches utilized for adults and kids alike included natural products (dietary supplements, vitamins and minerals) along with yoga, meditation, massage and chiropractic care.

Not surprisingly, children and adults with mental health challenges commonly turn to complementary therapies as well. The results of a survey published in 2001 by Kessler et al in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 56.7% of adult patients with anxiety attacks and 53.6% of those reporting severe depression  had utilized complementary and/or alternative medicine (CAM) therapies to treat those conditions within the previous 4 months.

More than half of parents of children with ADHD treat their children’s symptoms using one or more CAM therapies, most commonly vitamins, dietary changes, and expressive arts therapies; yet only about 10% disclose use of such non-pharmacological therapies to their child’s pediatrician.

Children and teens with neurodevelopmental challenges such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) report using CAM as well, with the website Autism Speaks citing studies that suggest that CAM is an approach widely used by families caring for individuals with autism and that between 30 and 95 percent of children living with ASD have tried a CAM treatment.

At PrairieCare, we recognize that many patients find value in CAM interventions.  We are proponents of helping patients and their families learn about and understand the important facts regarding the safety and efficacy of various integrative/CAM approaches so they can be truly “informed” healthcare consumers with enhanced health literacy. Improving the health literacy of our patients is one way that we live our mission of providing each individual patient they psychiatric care they truly need.

Health Literacy is defined by the Institute of Medicine as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” More recent definitions focus on specific skills needed to navigate the health care system and the importance of clear communication between health care providers and their patients. Both health care providers and patients play important roles in health literacy.

One goal of adding the new Pediatric Integrative Medicine Program at PrairieCare’s Chaska office, is to continue to educate our staff, our patients and their families about the potential risks and benefits of complementary therapies and to begin to offer safe and evidence-based options at PrairieCare when appropriate. Already, our PHP programs offer yoga, meditation and expressive arts therapies. PrairieCare has established an “Integrative Medicine Committee” at the leadership level to explore avenues for introducing complementary and alternative therapies when appropriate, consonant with a goal of creating optimal healing environments in all of our programs as we strive to truly “transform psychiatric health care”.

We welcome your thoughts on this issue.

Tim Culbert, MD – Medical Director of Integrative Medicine

Joel Oberstar, MD – CEO & Chief Medical Officer

Visit our blog for content on all things mental health related.

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