Complementary therapies

What are complimentary therapies?

What do they help with?

How do they work?

Where can I find a complementary therapy service?

What are complimentary therapies?

Complementary therapies are therapies which help your recovery and wellbeing by complementing treatments which you may already be having.They tend to take a holistic approach to treating the entire person, and so are very useful for supporting both physical and mental wellbeing.

Some examples of complementary therapies include:

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Also see staying zen to learn about relaxation, meditation and mindfulness.


What do they help with?

Complementary therapies are used to reduce the symptoms associated with mental health problems such as stress, agitation, tension and frustration. We know that young people with mental health difficulties often feel anxious and stressed, as well as dealing with problems such as isolation. Complementary therapies can be used to help relaxation; to provide pain relief; to support health promotion and may be part of your treatment plan. They can also give some people alternatives to medication (e.g. for anxiety, sleep). Complementary therapies can help with: 

  • Agitation
  • Anger management
  • Anxiety
  • Challenging behaviour
  • Fatigue
  • Frustration
  • Insomnia / sleep problems
  • Low self-worth 
  • Muscular pain/aches
  • Relaxation
  • Stress related signs and symptoms
  • Withdrawal symptoms

If you are using any complementary therapies always make sure you tell your health worker so they are aware of anything that may interact with other methods of treatment you are receiving.

How do they work?

Complementary Therapies are being used more and more within mental health services throughout the UK and are showing positive outcomes.

The evidence suggests that Complementary Therapies have physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits. Health and wellbeing from a complementary medicine viewpoint, explains the health of the human mind-body on three different levels: biochemical (our hormones), structural (our brain and body structure) and psycho-social (our beliefs, attitudes, behaviours and environment), suggesting that they are all interrelated. Which means an impact on one level affects the others.  Therefore all aspects of a person are taken into consideration when viewing their mental health problem.

Where can I find a Complementary Therapy service?


In Birmingham we have the complementary therapy service which is offered to patients receiving treatment for mental health problems. This can help your recovery by reducing stress and encouraging relaxation. All the therapies used in the service are evidence-based so we know that they work, are carried out by fully qualified Professional Complementary Therapy Practitioners and are a useful addition to more mainstream therapies. This service offers: Aromatherapy massage, Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, and Reflex hand massage.

Complementary therapy services in mental health

If you live outside Birmingham check with your local NHS mental health Trust or ask your GP.


Some agencies in the charity sector offer free-of-charge Complementary Therapies for certain groups, ask your GP.


Many practitioners offer these kinds of services privately and will range in their methods and their price. When finding a therapist look for ones with recognised qualifications and look for those with good feedback online or that have been recommended by others.


Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils (extracted from plants) in holistic treatments to improve your physical wellbeing. Essential oils have therapeutic properties, which can be used to your improve health and prevent diseases. These natural oils can be used in a variety of ways, including massage, baths, and inhalations.

How does it work?

Which oils you use will be tailored to your needs as they all act on different difficulties. For example you might use Lavender to help with anxiety or panic or Sweet Marjoram for stress and agitation.

What does it help with?

Anxiety, panic, stress, agitation, poor sleep, pain, muscle stiffness and relaxation.

Indian Head Massage

Indian Head Massage is a simple, safe and beneficial therapy that can help you to relax, be soothed or invigorated. The therapist used their hands to knead, rub and squeeze your body's soft tissues such as in the upper back, neck, shoulders, upper arms, scalp, hair and face.

How does it work?

Indian head massage gives you a feeling of wellbeing and calm. It improves blood circulation, relieves tense muscles and promotes sleep. The massage release chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which create a feeling of contentment and happiness. People having an Indian Head Massage have increased alpha waves in the brain which is similar to people who are in a meditative state.

What does it help with?

This deep state of relaxation is associated with reduced stress, improved breathing, lower blood cholesterol, better hormonal balance and increased immunity. It reduces fatigue, tension headaches and creates calm.


Reflexology is based on the theory that certain points on your feet and hands, called reflex points, relate to various parts of the body and that by applying pressure to these points in a particular way, a practitioner can help to release stress and anxiety and encourage the body’s natural healing processes.

How does it work?

Reflexology is recognised as a well-established, respected and effective therapy for conditions within mental health. Reflexology is a means of maintaining balance, aiding relaxation and triggering your body’s own self-healing capacity.

What does it help with?

Anxiety, agitation, migraine, stress, sleep problems and respiratory problems.