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Is There Any Space for ‘Woo-Woo’ In Mental Health Counseling?

Mental Health Counseling

As mental health professionals, we are constantly implored to embrace evidence-based practices rooted in empirical research and clinical trials. However, during the course of our practices, it’s hard not to fall for the lure of alternative treatments, ranging from traditional medicine and therapies to even outright mysticism.

Dubbed as sounding ‘woo’, which is either a term of endearment or derision, depending on how you look at it, professionals often find themselves drifting towards it, at times inadvertently, over the course of 100s of different patients.

If you are reading this article, you probably have a higher tolerance for such concepts than the general populace. However, if you’re a certified mental health professional, it is at least worth asking about the relevance of these concepts and their ability to add value to patients.

The Woo-Woo Phenomenon

When we refer to ‘woo’ we are essentially talking about practices such as crystal healing, chakras, Reiki, sound baths, and astrology, among other things. Despite having no scientific basis, these practices are gaining increasing acceptance among millennials and Gen Z.

Although initially popular in niche communities focused on spirituality and new-age concepts, they have increasingly crept their way into the realm of mental health. This can be attributed to scientific methods and therapies not yielding the desired results or being too expensive and inaccessible for the masses.

This also pertains to certain inherent human traits that compel us to pursue quick fixes instead of months of arduous therapy and counseling sessions with no guarantee of improvements.

People also find it reassuring to feel the presence of a higher power in their daily lives, something that goes beyond their mundane everyday existence.

While no guide to becoming an LMHC (Licensed Medical Health Counselor) covers these aspects of the trade, with many actively trying to avoid them, practitioners should keep an open mind nonetheless, especially given the sheer number of their patients who believe in the existence of such a phenomenon.

The Importance of Informed Consent

During the course of their careers, mental health practitioners will come across many patients who choose to pursue traditional and new-age treatments that may lack scientific backing.

When dealing with such patients, however, counselors need to reserve any judgment and provide informed consent instead. This refers to explaining the potential risks, benefits, and limitations of such treatments to help patients make informed decisions on their own.

By doing this, you are not only protecting the interests of your patient but also retaining their trust, which we know is the most important element in any mental health counseling engagement.

Better still, you can formalize this process by implementing patient engagement software as part of your counseling setup. This keeps them in the loop on appointments, payments, counselor availability, and much more besides. This professional approach will further empower patient decision-making, and encourage them to trust the methods you recommend.

The Placebo Effect

Despite having no scientific basis or consensus whatsoever, millions of individuals who attempt these new-age and traditional methods of healing report remarkable results. This is particularly true in the realm of mental health, as beliefs form the crux of even the most scientifically-approved treatment methods.

Whether you believe in these new-age concepts or consider them to be utter nonsense, there is no denying that the Placebo effect is a very real phenomenon, one that often results in more measurable improvements than the actual treatment itself.

As a result, mental health professionals should not be so dismissive about their patient’s beliefs in traditional healing methods. Having a condescending attitude in this regard can do a lot of damage, even if you firmly believe that you are in the right.

Usually, even if you are certain that a patient is making an error in judgment, it is good to let it play out after advising them on your thoughts. As long as it doesn’t put them in any danger, the end result is either your patient doing better for themselves or a much stronger bond between you and them.

Final Words

Addressing spirituality, mysticism, and other types of ‘WOOisms’ in mental healthcare is a lot harder than most people realize.

There was a time when practitioners would do well just to dismiss this entirely and reimpose their faith in science, but recent developments in the fields of noetic sciences and parapsychology show that this is far from being that straightforward.

As a result, professionals and practitioners in the field should adopt being open-minded as their guiding light while only looking out for the safety and well-being of their patients instead of asserting their superiority in their respective fields.