Complementary and alternative medicine in psychiatry

by Dr Ursula Werneke


Last updated: June 2019


The use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) for mental health problems is well documented. In psychiatric patients, estimates of the prevalence of CAM use range from 8% to 57%. Such treatments are either used alternatively (instead of) or complementarily (in addition) to conventional medicine.


Patients may choose a CAM approach for a variety of reasons, and the range of CAMs is huge. However, the evidence base for the effectiveness of CAMs remains limited. For many CAMs, effectiveness has not been demonstrated at all. Some treatments may even put patients’ physical or mental health at risk. 


Discussing this with patients who may have put high hopes into CAMs can be difficult, and physicians may feel ill-equipped to deal with their patients´ queries. From a medico-legal point of view, uncritical encouragement of the potentially harmful use of CAMs is as undesirable as overcautious discouragement.


The goal of this module is to acquaint psychiatrists with the most common CAM medicines routinely encountered in clinical practice and to enable them to deal confidently with clinical queries in this area.


Start the module



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