Mental health program embraces best of conventional and alternative medicine

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 19 January, 2015

One Queensland business is striking a chord through pioneering a unique model of care which embraces both sides of medicine to help people battling mental health issues.

One Queensland business is striking a chord through pioneering a unique model of care which embraces both sides of medicine to help people battling mental health issues.

Co-owners Pettina Stanghon and Greg Doney launched private residential program Noosa Confidentialin 2009 after years of working in the rehabilitation industry to bring together the best scientifically proven traditional and alternative therapies to treat clients more effectively.

Demand for the program has been so strong that Noosa Confidential has rapidly grown, with 27 therapists now on the team with expertise spanning across the areas of naturopathy, pathology, psychotherapy, yoga, exercise and mindfulness.

“One of our biggest points of difference is the importance we place on uncovering the contributing factors at play. To treat mental health issues effectively we must help people uncover any biochemical or hormonal imbalances, as well as identify and change any foundational beliefs and thinking which are causing destructive behaviour,” said Co-owner Noosa Confidential Greg Doney.

“We are essentially teaching people a new way of being through healthier approaches to eating, moving, breathing and self-talking.”

Naturopath Talita McCleverty, 29, brought a unique edge to Noosa Confidential when she joined the team, having navigated through anxiety and depression throughout her teens and early 20s.

“I grew up without a strong sense of self-worth and this impacted every aspect of my life. I went down the conventional route of taking anti-depressants but didn’t find this to be the answer for me,” Talita said.

Talita said the self-awareness she experienced through her studies with Endeavour College changed her life and gave her clarity about what career path she’d like to pursue.

“Whenever lecturers would touch on the subject of mental illness my ears would prick up. It helped me better understand the triggers of my condition, the underlying factors I could work with and the role naturopathy could play in supporting people going through these issues.”

“I could see a big gap in the way many people perceive mental illness – a huge separation between the head and body. The reality is the body contributes to the head, and people should consider how their diets and genetic makeup are contributing to the way they are feeling.”

When Talita heard of Noosa Confidential’s integrated approach to tackling mental health issues, she contacted them to share her story and interest in using her natural health insights to further their mission.

Once onboard, Talita established herself as a central part of the team, offering clients a unique point of view and the comfort of speaking to someone who had walked in their shoes.

“It has been helpful to be able to share my experience with clients and use my own insights combined with my naturopathic expertise to give their treatment plans an edge.”

Talita, who hopes to become Australia’s leading naturopath specialising in mental health issues, said it was particularly rewarding to work with clients over a period of months in a private program setting.

“We have an opportunity not just to scrape the surface, but to dig into every corner possible. This is where you see really positive changes occur for people,” she said.

One of the biggest surprises for Talita was realising what a huge role naturopathy could play in supporting conventional treatments for mental health issues.

“I couldn’t have hoped to be of as much help as I have been. Nutrients and herbs can play a huge role in impacting the chemical pathways of the body. It has been wonderful to help people realise the foundations of their makeup as well as their lifestyle is often contributing to the way they are feeling.”

“This can take a massive load off people’s shoulders, as they realise there are other factors they can work with.”

Co-owner Greg Doney said one of the most important things to consider when treating mental health issues is a person’s back story.

“Every person needs to have their situation put into context by uncovering any trauma or biochemical factors at play. Medication isn’t always the answer in itself, although sometimes it is a necessary component of someone’s treatment,” said Greg.

“Shame and abandonment can exhibit the same physical response as depression in people and these issues often need to be resolved for a person to recover. As we work on so many factors at once we’ve been able to send people from every walk of life home extremely well.”

By Pettina Stanghon, Director of Therapies at Noosa Confidential

1. Love your gut

An inflamed gut can contribute to depression due to the close relationship between the digestive tract and the brain. Studies have shown it is possible to improve depression symptoms through treating gut issues with certain species of probiotics, bone broth, Vitamin B group, Vitamin D, resistant starch and omega-3 fats.

2. Treat food as medicine

Certain foods have a powerful effect on the body and can even trigger chemical reactions which result in inflammation, definitely not our friend where depression is concerned. Removing refined sugars, grains and stimulants from your diet can be enormously helpful.

3. Check your hormone levels

Many people aren’t aware a simple, non-invasive saliva test can reveal more about your body’s hormones than conventional blood tests. Testing levels such as cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, adrenal function and melatonin can provide valuable clues about your constitution to help your healthcare professional treat you more effectively.

4. Practice gratitude and mindfulness therapy daily

As we grapple with consistently competing priorities, it can be challenging to concentrate on the present moment. Learning how to master this skill and incorporate it into our day can help improve distorted reflections, anxiety and distractions. We tend to have this distorted belief we must be busy to be valuable. It isn’t the case – sometimes we should prioritise human being over human doing.

Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture and Myotherapy, a fully online Bachelor of Complementary Medicine and  HLT52015 Diploma of Remedial Massage.

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