What is Alternative Therapy?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2019
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Alternative therapy may also be called alternative medicine, and it is any type of medicine that steps outside the bounds of traditional, especially Western traditional, medical treatment. In this context, therapy doesn’t tend to refer to psychotherapy or counseling since these are considered a traditional part of medicine to a great degree. Instead, these therapies represent huge diversity that include anything from spiritual or religious healing to chiropractic practice, and the degree to which they’re accepted by medical practitioners can be varied.

Almost inexhaustible lists of alternative therapy methods exist. Some therapies include homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Aryuvedic medicine, acupuncture/acupressure, and herbology. These may applied as methods of curing a variety of conditions or for maintaining health in general. For instance, some people would only use herbology to treat conditions and would not want the services of a general practitioner. Other people migrate between the worlds of alternative therapy and traditional medicine, using a combination of both to address illnesses or conditions.

For instance, some people with cancer will have chemotherapy or radiation treatment. To handle the nausea, they might use helpful herbs like ginger, or they could use guided meditation as a spiritual means of helping the body heal. Physicians are often quite willing to endorse practices that are used in addition to traditional treatments. In fact, some doctors may work with a team of specialists in alternative therapy in order to give the patient all potential options for recovery.


Some doctors also become complementary medicine practitioners, or they may be called naturopaths. They hold medical degrees and are fully trained in medical therapy, but they also study alternative therapy of many sorts. Again, this offers the patient some additional treatment options and methods for curing illness or conditions.

There are some doctors and just average people who hold alternative therapy methods in disdain. Part of this is because results in some therapies have not been proven, have been disproved, or rely only on anecdotal evidence to support that they work. It is true that serious scrutiny of alternative medical practice could sometimes be helpful. However it would be a mistake to assume that the alternative nature of a therapy makes it necessarily ineffective. It’s likewise a mistake to assume that a “traditional” therapy is always the best medicine.

People investigating any treatment should do their homework. They should begin by finding out if the treatment has been proven, and if so how. Keeping an open but critical mind throughout any medical care is vital, as patients are often the best judges of whether a therapy is working.



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