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  • Writer's pictureScott R. Mote, Esq.

The rise and risks of mental health fad treatments

In the high-stakes environment of legal practice, maintaining mental health is crucial for sustaining professional performance and personal well-being. However, the constant pressures and demands of the job can take a significant toll on mental health, leading many legal professionals to seek effective treatment options. In recent years, myriad mental health treatment fads have emerged, promising quick fixes and revolutionary results. These trends range from mindfulness apps and wellness retreats to unconventional therapies and supplements.



 

While some of these fads may offer genuine benefits, others may be based on pseudoscience or lack substantial evidence. As legal professionals, known for our analytical and critical thinking skills, we must navigate this landscape with caution. Understanding which mental health treatments are supported by rigorous scientific research and which are merely trendy but ineffective is essential for making informed decisions about self-care.

 

Some of OLAP’s clients have found that the best wellness regime for them is exercise, a healthy diet, medication and talk therapy, but that might not be the best option for you. We all have different needs when it comes to mental health wellness, and it is very rare for therapy to be 100 percent effective for 100 percent of patients, so you must do what is best for you. When looking into alternative therapies, I encourage you to do your own research. Be aware of these common mental health fad treatments, their appeal, the potential risks involved, and the importance of relying on evidence-based practices.

 

The appeal of fad treatments

The allure of mental health fad treatments lies in their promise of rapid and effortless improvement. In a world where instant gratification is highly valued, many individuals are drawn to quick fixes. These treatments often come with compelling testimonials and marketing strategies that emphasize their supposed effectiveness. Moreover, the stigma associated with traditional mental health treatments can drive people toward alternative methods that seem more socially acceptable or less intimidating.

 

Common mental health fad treatments

 

Animal therapy

Lately, there has been a craze about animal therapy, such as goat yoga and cow cuddling, which claim to promote positivity, reduce stress and anxiety, increase happiness, and lower blood pressure, but none of these assertions have been proven.[i]

 

Psychedelic therapy

Another therapy that is getting attention comes in the form of hallucinogenics, including psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, MDMA and mescaline. Many studies have shown that there could be significant reductions in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD with only a single dose, but these studies were small, had methodological flaws and relied on self-reporting.[ii] Serious side effects include psychosis, fear and cardiovascular issues. Psychedelic therapies remain an experimental treatment.

 

Crystal healing

Crystal healing involves using various stones and crystals, which are believed to possess unique energy properties that can influence mental well-being. Proponents claim that crystals like amethyst, rose quartz, and citrine can reduce anxiety, enhance mood, and promote overall mental health. While the aesthetic appeal of crystals is undeniable, there is no scientific evidence to support their efficacy in treating mental health conditions.[iii]

 

Essential oils and aromatherapy

Essential oils and aromatherapy have become popular for their purported mental health benefits. Oils such as lavender, chamomile, and peppermint are said to alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress. While some studies suggest that certain scents can have a calming effect, these treatments should not replace conventional therapies. The effects of essential oils are often short-lived and subjective, and their misuse can lead to allergic reactions or other health issues.[iv]

 

CBD products

Cannabidiol (CBD) products have gained immense popularity for their alleged mental health benefits, including reducing anxiety and improving sleep. Although some research indicates that CBD may have therapeutic potential, the industry is largely unregulated.[v] Many products vary in quality and potency, and their long-term effects are not well understood. It's crucial for users to consult healthcare professionals before incorporating CBD into their treatment plans.

 

Dietary supplements

A variety of dietary supplements claim to improve mental health. Supplements such as St. John's Wort, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins are marketed as natural remedies for depression and anxiety. While some supplements may have a positive impact, their effectiveness is often exaggerated. Additionally, they can interact with prescribed medications, potentially causing harmful side effects.

 

Social media wellness influencers

Social media has become a powerful platform for wellness influencers who promote various mental health treatments. These influencers often share personal anecdotes and unverified advice, ranging from dietary changes to obscure practices like sound baths and energy healing. While their intentions may be good, the lack of professional oversight means that followers could be misled or fail to receive proper treatment for serious conditions.

 

Risks of fad treatments

 

Delay in effective treatment

One of the most significant risks of fad treatments is that they can delay individuals from seeking evidence-based therapies. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder require professional diagnosis and treatment. Relying on fad treatments can prevent individuals from receiving the care they need, potentially worsening their condition.

 

Financial costs

Fad treatments can be expensive, often requiring continuous purchases of products or services. The financial burden can add to the stress and anxiety of individuals already struggling with mental health issues. This money could be better spent on proven treatments such as therapy sessions or prescribed medications.

 

False hope and disappointment

The promises of quick fixes can create false hope, leading to significant disappointment when the treatments fail to deliver results. This can exacerbate feelings of helplessness and despair, making it even harder for individuals to seek proper help.

 

Potential harm

Some fad treatments can cause physical harm. For example, unregulated supplements may contain harmful ingredients, and misuse of essential oils can lead to allergic reactions or poisoning. Additionally, practices like energy healing or extreme diets can have adverse effects on both physical and mental health.

 

The importance of evidence-based treatment

Evidence-based treatments are therapies that have been scientifically tested and proven to be effective. These treatments are developed through rigorous research and clinical trials, ensuring their safety and efficacy.

 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a structured, time-limited therapy that helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. It has been proven effective for a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

 

Medication

Medications such as antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and mood stabilizers are often essential components of treatment for various mental health conditions. Healthcare professionals prescribe and monitor them to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

 

Mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are evidence-based programs that teach individuals how to manage stress and improve mental well-being through mindfulness practices.

 

Psychoeducation and support groups

Educating individuals about their mental health conditions and providing support through group therapy or support groups can be highly beneficial. These approaches help individuals understand their conditions, reduce stigma, and connect with others facing similar challenges.

 

Legal professionals should approach mental health treatment fads with a critical eye, prioritizing evidence-based practices and consulting with qualified mental health professionals. It is essential to remain informed about the latest developments in mental health research and to be wary of treatments that promise quick fixes or miraculous results. Integrating reliable and proven mental health strategies can enhance resilience, reduce stress, and improve overall quality of life, enabling you to perform at your best, both personally and professionally.


OLAP can help

If you are a legal professional who is unhappy, depressed, suffering from substance use disorder, burnout, or stress, and you believe it is affecting your life, the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program can provide CONFIDENTIAL help. For more information, go to ohiolap.org or call (800) 348-4343.


The Judicial Advisory Group can help

If you are a judge or magistrate who needs help, contact the Judicial Advisory Group, a peer-based confidential assistance group that helps judges and magistrates with personal and professional issues. For more information, go to www.ohiolap.org/judges or call (800) 348-4343.


[i] Berbel, T., & Praetorius, R. T. (2023). Phenomenological qualitative program evaluation of Goat Yoga: “the best belly laugh.” Social Work in Mental Health22(3), 335–355. https://doi.org/10.1080/15332985.2023.2299882

[ii] Kwonmok Ko, Emma I. Kopra, Anthony J. Cleare, James J. Rucker,

Psychedelic therapy for depressive symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis,

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