Complementary and alternative (CAM) therapy is a term that designates a diverse selection of therapeutic practices. CAM therapies can provide enormous relief to people suffering from mental health conditions and substance use disorders. CAM practices often utilize unconventional techniques that aim to address the whole person, rather than just their disorder.
For this reason, patients with mild to severe conditions often find that complementary and alternative therapies resonate with them in a deep way. To understand the nature of these practices, it can be helpful to look at the term “complementary and alternative” itself.
The word “alternative” refers to the fact that CAM healthcare falls outside of mainstream medical practices. CAM treatments are experimental in nature and most of them are not supported by a large body of research. Instead, they originate from other sources, ranging from spiritual practices to traditional healing practices. In this sense, CAM medicine exists as an alternative to scientific medical techniques.
The word “complementary” indicates the way in which CAM medicine is generally used. People who successfully use CAM medical techniques most frequently do so in conjunction with other therapies that are more recognized by the medical establishment. CAM therapies are designed to compliment, reinforce, and support the evidence-based therapies that are offered at treatment centers.
Complementary and alternative therapies are ideal for people who are pursuing evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavioral therapy. While evidence-based therapies are likely to provide the best guarantee of successful recovery from a mental health disorder or addiction, complementary and alternative therapies can supplement these treatment modalities.
CAM therapies are suitable for people who want to do everything in their power to ensure their long-term health and recovery. They also often appeal to people who value spirituality or have a connection to a specific religious or cultural tradition. CAM therapies complement scientific therapies and offer people a chance to treat their mind, body, and spirit.
Complementary and alternative therapy, or CAM therapy, goes by many names. While “complementary and alternative” is currently the preferred and most frequently utilized term in the context of mental health and addiction treatment centers, it is not uncommon to hear variations of the term. Common alternative names for this diverse set of treatment practices include:
- Complementary Medicine (CM)
- Integrated Medicine
- Integrative Medicine (IM)
- Holistic Medicine