Understanding Traditional vs. Integrative Psychiatry

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Psychiatric care, including integrative psychiatry, is increasingly being sought by patients worldwide. Integrative psychiatry treats various mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. 

Mental disorders are responsible for a loss in quality of life as well as the ability to be productive. On average, depressed individuals miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer from 11.5 days of reduced activity over a three-month period. And these disorders are far more prevalent than most people realize. Additionally, patients with mental illnesses face an increased risk of morbidity from general medical conditions, so it is essential to address them.

Traditional psychiatry is only one way to treat underlying mental disorders, while an integrative approach to psychiatry takes into consideration the whole person and offers multiple approaches to treatment.

Integrative Psychiatry can supplement traditional psychiatry in a way that leads to more positive mental health outcomes that last and support long-term mental wellness.

What is Integrative Psychiatry?

Since psychiatric conditions can arise from many different causes and manifest differently, it’s essential to recognize that psychiatric care is not uniform. Instead, good psychiatric treatment should account for the differences across patients – even patients with the same conditions. 

Integrative psychiatry is viewed as a holistic approach that accounts for different individual parts. It can adopt many strategies used in conventional medicine when delivering psychiatric care, such as medications; as well as additional complementary strategies to reach not only remission of some symptoms but attain optimal mental well-being. 

Examples of complementary care that integrative psychiatry may recommend include:


Integrative psychiatry may incorporate factors of diet and exercise that may impact the patient’s mental health. There is an evidence-based mind-body connection when it comes to diet and exercise. Enhancing an individual’s nutrition and activity level can positively benefit mental health. 

Meditation and Guided Imagery

Good mental health care often includes teaching patients to relax their minds using meditation, breathing exercises, and guided imagery. Mindfulness can reduce stress levels, promote better mental health and help you focus on the moment. 

By increasing mindfulness, patients can often become less reactive to the moment.

Massage or Acupuncture

Physical strategies can also positively benefit mental health, such as massages and acupuncture. These strategies can provide effective forms of stress relief.

For example, massages and acupuncture can promote the release of endorphins, which can cause positive feelings. They also help improve mental well-being and address physical symptoms of mental health issues such as rapid breathing and heart rate. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing people’s thinking since negative thinking strongly contributes to psychological problems.

Music Therapy

Music therapy uses the connection between the brain and music to support recovery. This type of therapy can empower patients, improve their self-confidence, and assist with deep emotional insights. 

These examples represent just a few strategies used with integrative health care. In fact, more than 400 types of specific treatments may be incorporated into an integrative psychiatry plan for a given patient. 

When conventional medicine is combined with integrative medicine, patients can often get better mental health care overall. Integrative psychiatry accounts for the different needs of patients and how they may respond differently to a variety of care strategies.

What are the Benefits of Integrative Psychiatry?

Conventional medicine often treats conditions in silos, even when delivering mental health care. However, complementary medicine strategies, such as integrative psychiatry, can be added to the care plan for a much more effective level of treatment. And when this is done, the therapy encompasses multiple aspects of the patient’s health, rather than focusing solely on mental health in isolation. 

The benefits of this type of treatment are many. Most importantly, it accounts for differences in patients’ needs, preferences, personalities, and additional health factors. It doesn’t use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. 

Other benefits include:


There are limited options when one type of treatment doesn’t work with conventional medicine. You can change medication or adjust a dose, but it might not affect patient outcomes.

Integrative medicine gives mental health professionals more flexibility to select treatment strategies that can positively impact the patient. If one isn’t working, the therapist can recommend another. 

Holistic Approach

Integrative psychiatry doesn’t just take mental health into account. The provider can ask many questions about the whole self, such as nutritional habits, sleep patterns, and exercise habits. Understanding that these elements are interrelated with mental health and overall well-being allows the integrative psychiatrist to diagnose all factors contributing to mental health disorders. 

Improved Personal Relationships

As anyone who has experienced mental health problems in the past can attest to, close personal relationships often suffer. Integrative psychiatry can help you identify toxic relationships and develop strategies to maintain healthy relationships with other people. 

Improved Immune System and Health

In the past, inflammation and infectious diseases were attributed to the genetic makeup and biological function of the body. And interactions with pathogenic factors were determined based on this information.

However, recent studies stress the importance of psychological balance and mental health on the body’s immune system. Patients that respond positively to integrative psychiatry may also experience a boost in their immune system. 

Greater Productivity

Mental health issues often hurt personal productivity, whether it is at school, home, or in the workplace. After all, it is hard to be focused and productive when your mental state is fragile. Improved personal productivity is often a by-product of successful integrative psychiatric treatment. 

Individualized experience

Not only does integrative psychiatry provide a unique treatment approach, but it also accounts for the patient’s unique history and experiences. A patient’s history and experience are huge in identifying complementary treatment strategies that lead to long-term benefits. 

The bottom line is that integrative psychiatry can enhance primary care for better results and it is used to treat a wide range of mental health disorders, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Dissociative identity disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Substance abuse disorders and recovery

In this manner, integrative therapies will encourage emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Discuss the benefits of integrative psychiatry with a board-certified provider specializing in integrative health care to see if it’s right for you. If you’re in the Reno-Sparks area, we’d love to speak with you.

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